Friday, December 23, 2011

Quiet night

I’ve had a long day filled with fun and exciting things, yet I’m finding it impossible to sleep.  Maybe it’s because I fell asleep on the couch for a little while before bedtime, or maybe it’s because of the incessant alarm my ADT box keeps sending out saying “trouble”.  I know when the beeping starts a phone call from ADT will follow, so I guess I psyched myself out of sleeping waiting on the phone call and the next round of trouble alarms that will surely follow all night long.  I finally had it out with ADT on the phone at 1:00 a.m., so a technician will be here in two weeks to look at the problem, again.  Yes, two weeks, but the customer service lady assured me someone will call me within 24-48 hours to move that date up and send out a download to disable the trouble alarm.  They will call later because I assured her I was not staying up 20 minutes to two hours longer to wait on their call this morning.  Yet here I am awake anyway, washing clothes and complaining.

Usually when I can’t sleep I use my insomnia as an excuse to get up and write.  But I can’t think of anything to write about.  Christmas is only three days away.  I guess I could write about that.  I have been thinking about Santa a lot lately.  I remember how much I loved waiting on Santa, but he scared me, too.  The thought of waking up and seeing him sent enough fear through me to send me straight to bed to hide under the covers.  I remember one year I heard him walking up to my crib. 

 Let me take a moment to explain something.  I grew up in a four bedroom house with three brothers, three sisters, two parents, and a grandmother.  The grandmother got her own room plus a sitting room, the parents got a room, the boys all shared a room, two sisters shared one room and my pesky sister somehow finagled the grandmother’s sitting room all to herself.  That left me sleeping in a crib in my parents’ room for more years than any child should ever have to sleep in a crib.  I mean, when you’re sitting up in your crib doing your homework something is wrong with the picture.

Anyway, as I was saying, one year I heard Santa walking slowly up to my bed (i.e. crib), the floorboards creaking ever so slightly under his feet.  When he got to me he stopped and looked at me.  I didn’t see him looking at me of course because I was frozen with fear with eyes shut tightly, but I could feel his gaze upon me.  After a brief time I heard him slowly walk away and out of the room.  I think I must have passed out then because I didn’t wake and pull down the railing until morning.

My mother was always up early on Christmas morning tending to the turkey.  She would baby a turkey in the oven from the wee hours of the morning until it was time to eat.  She would always ask me if I thought Santa came, always instilling just enough doubt in me to send my stomach into knots wondering if he did indeed come afterall.  I couldn’t see into the living room to be sure if he came because of the sheet my father would have hung in the doorway the night before to keep us from peeking.  And I never peeked.  Truly, I did not.  Despite that shade of doubt Santa always came.  Always.

This year I will celebrate my 45th Christmas.  When I go to bed on Christmas Eve I will have that same feeling I have had all of these 45 years waiting on Santa.  I will lie in bed in anticipation of the footsteps I once heard so long ago.  I will listen for the sleigh bells and the thump of reindeer hooves on the roof.   And on Christmas morning I will ask my children if he came, even though they are teenagers and probably no longer believe he does come.  But I do.  I believe in Santa because my parents never, never ever till their dying day told me otherwise.  And I heard his footsteps that night.  I felt his loving gaze upon me.  If that isn’t proof there is a Santa, then I don’t know what is.

The alarm has been quiet for awhile, the clothes are done washing, and I’m finally beginning to feel just a little bit sleepy.  I guess I’ll turn the tree lights off and go to bed.  I feel visions of sugarplums beginning to dance in my head.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The girl in the picture, the one beside me

I’m sitting here reading the comments people have made on my Facebook profile picture.  It is a picture of my sister, Barbara, and I on Christmas morning probably in 1968 or ’69 if I had to guess.  She’s modeling an Indian dress and necklace, and I’m holding her finger and seem to be quite happy it’s Christmas and I got a new doll buggy.  She looks like she would rather be in the picture alone, but I’m hanging in there so she goes along with it.  I changed the picture tonight to one of the two of us, again on Christmas morning, probably taken in 1984 or ’85, if I had to guess.  This time I am not gripping her finger, but we both seem to be happy about whatever is going on off camera.  It was Christmas, so of course we were happy.  

I think of Barbara the most at Christmas.  I think it was her favorite day of the year, much less her favorite holiday.  She was like a child at Christmas.  I remember one year while waiting on the rest of the family to get to Mama’s house on Christmas morning, she got so excited she threw up.  Mind you, she was probably 30.   I don’t think she would care I shared this with the world, because I laughed at her all day about it, and every year thereafter, so she was used to it.

It’s funny how I can’t remember the little details of our last Christmas together at Mama’s house.  The year would have been 1992.  I know this because the next year was the first year my family spent Christmas away from Mama’s.  We spent it at my sister, Marilyn’s new house.  It was large enough for us to spread out, and I think we were going to make a new tradition of it.  That was also the same year on Thanksgiving Day Barbara gave my two sisters and me matching silver Santa pendants.   I probably didn’t think much of it at the time, but I do now.  In fact every Thanksgiving I don my Santa pendant and wear it everyday until Christmas.  I think of her as I wear it Christmas shopping and feel her with me.  I silently consult with her on certain purchases to see if they would be something she would buy.  Afterall, she was the master shopper.

The next year, Christmas 1994, was another break of tradition for my family.  We didn’t spend it at Marilyn’s house, or Mama’s.  No, we spent it at my brother’s house in Birmingham, Alabama, because Barbara was in a coma in the heart transplant unit at the UAB hospital.  I remember rushing Christmas morning at my own house with my then 15 month-old son so we could get in the car and get to Birmingham as fast as we could.  That was the year Barbara gave the entire family the best Christmas present she ever gave anyone.  That was the year when all of us, all seven plus her husband, were piled in her tiny ICU room amid the machines and tubing, and she surfaced from her coma just enough to smile at us when we told her it was Christmas and we were all there with her.  She did not come all the way out of her coma on that day, but I know she knew we were there.  I’m certain of it.

There is a bond shared by sisters and brothers that is only loosed in death.  I don’t think it can ever be broken entirely.  In life you share the same parents, family, history, heritage and home.  That piece of me that was the bond between Barbara and me fell asleep with her and I have felt an empty place in my being ever since.  Most times the emptiness is shallow, but sometimes, like Christmas, it gets a little deeper.  Along with our bond, the magic Christmas once held for me fell asleep as well.

Had it not been for the need to create a Christmas spirit for my children I think I would have given up long ago.  Not that there have not been glimmers here and there of what it used to be.   And this year will be the first Christmas without my mother, the true driving force of the holiday.  She and Barbara shared the same zeal for Christmas.  The joy they both shared for this one day of the year was overflowing.  When you combine that overflowing joy and multiply it by the number of Christmases they had between them, then surely there is still enough of that joy floating around out there to shine down on me for years to come.

The first Christmas without is always the hardest, especially, when you have had the best all of the years before.  But with all that joy shining down from Mama and Barbara, then I’m sure I’ll “muddle through somehow”.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A little shopping goes a long way

My Christmas spirit so far has been about a quart low this year.  Putting up my tree and all that goes with it is more of a chore than a pleasure; even though I do enjoy the way my house feels after it is all done.   My sorry back does not like me to stand for long, so it has taken over a week to do everything, and I’m still not done.  So yesterday I got it in my head I was going to go Christmas shopping to lift my spirits and give me the boost I need to finish decorating.   I left home at not quite 10:00 a.m.  with my iPod tuned to my Christmas playlist (courtesy of my friends and their Christmas Spectacular spectacular). 

My first stop was Hobby Lobby, a quest my oldest friend and travelling partner sent me on in search of peacock ornaments for her tree.  I did not find them, but I did find some lovely, glittery silver swans.  I reported in to her of my trophy, but she did not seem to want them so I left them at the store.  I almost bent to the temptation for myself, but my tree already has so many birds on it I’m sure it will fly away before New Year’s.  I then walked down to TJMaxx where I spent way too much time but knocked out over half my list.  A very productive trip, I must say. By the time I checked out my back was beginning to creak.  I should have stopped there.  But, no.  I drove on down to Tuesday Morning, but as it was Saturday there was nothing new in the store since the last time I was there so that was a wasted trip. Next stop, Kohl’s with a 20% off coupon in hand.  Again, spent way too much time but crossed a couple of more names off my list so I was happy. By then my sorry back was in full hurt and getting that slipping feeling.  I should have stopped there.  But, no.

I make it a rule to stay away from the mall.  I do most of my shopping online, so the mall is not a necessity in my life.  But Steinmart has moved to the mall and I have not been there in years, so I went anyway.  I quickly scouted the store so I could go out into the mall to get a coke to chase down a muscle relaxer and pain pill.  What I should have done was get in my car and go home.  But, no.  At some point while I was watching the robotic arm grab my selection and the little door open for me to retrieve it, something happened to my left heel.  It couldn’t bear my weight and I ended up dragging my foot through the mall.  Yes, the entire mall.  I felt that since I was there I would go ahead and make sure there wasn’t anything I wanted.  There wasn’t.

By the time I finally left that dreadful place it was after 2:00 p.m. and I still had stores on my list.  I hobbled to the parking lot and eased myself down into my car and somehow found the strength to shut the door.  Thankfully, the few minutes it took to drive from the mall to the Target shopping center gave my back and heel the time they needed to rest to give me a second wind.  I knew I was tired when I went into Books-A-Million and only looked at a couple of hundred.  I ended up walking the length of the shopping center twice, going in and out of stores along the way.  This is not good for me because I have to pass a Pet Smart twice in my journey and there are always rescue dogs out in front of the store on Saturdays.  There was one little tan Daschund mix blinking his eyes into the wind, a flirtatious ploy to get me to stop. I did not, because had I there would have been another dog or two I would have had to feed this morning.

I finally made it home around 4:00 p.m. and crashed on the couch with no intention of ever getting up.  After a good rest I pulled out my laptop and finished the majority of my shopping online.  I’ve only got one or two more stops at a store to return something and buy one more thing, and then I will be done with store shopping for quite a while.  At least until next year, God willing.