Christmas is upon us, there’s no getting around it. Stores are packed with people and product. The Santas of varying sizes and shapes have come out of hibernation to take their rightful place in the middle of your local mall. Christmas tree lots now outnumber Starbucks and the smell of pine seems to be on everything you own. You can try to fight it, but why would you want to?
Everywhere I go, I hear people saying they can’t wait for the holidays to be over. Too much hustle and bustle. Between the parties, the shopping, the wrapping, and the family time; it’s just too much activity for them to handle. If they could blink and it would be January 1st, they’d be happy. To those of you out there that fit this mold, I say bah humbug to you! What you need is a little Christmas spirit.
Christmas is my favorite time of the year. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. This holiday has always been a big deal in my family, and it’s my family that makes it so special. Growing up, my sister and I were the only kids in the family so Christmas revolved around us. It’s not like we were anybody special, it’s just that there was no one else to spoil so I say revolve away! Anyway, Christmas was a big production then and it still is today. My sister and I are grown and there are a few more kids to spoil, including my own, but the event that is Christmas is as exciting as it ever was. As the big day nears, I knew I wanted to write about it but I wasn’t sure what to talk about. Just thinking about it brought back memories of many Christmases past and that’s when it hit me. What better way to get people into the holiday spirit than by reliving a typical Christmas day. Since I don’t know what a typical Christmas is like for most of you, I’m going to have to use my own experience. For those who could care less how I spent my Christmas as a kid, feel free to leave now (your site visit has already been counted so I don’t care…Grinch!). For the rest of you, settle in for a little Chaney family Christmas, I hope it gets you in the spirit!
While the calendar says Christmas is a single day, in our family it officially began on Christmas Eve. Waking up that morning was nearly as exciting as what was to come the next day, although the lack of presents under the tree helped to remind me that the real thing was still 24 hours away. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait that long for a gift since Christmas Eve served as Christmas with my Dad’s family and there were plenty of presents to go around at the house on Diller Avenue. As I learned growing up, clocks move at a slower pace on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year. What? That’s not true? Hmm…always seemed that way to me. Anyway, the festivities of the day didn’t start until the evening usually so waiting around all day was just brutal. It did help build the anticipation though, not that it was needed. My excitement was at an unsafe level already so the waiting literally could have killed me.
Once we arrived at the Chaney house, it was a whirlwind of activity. I tried to eat as fast as possible, sometimes sacrificing taste and cutting down on the number of chews in order to speed the process up. After dinner it was on to the living room where the whole family participated in what became known as “the pageant”. Everyone found a seat and we took turns reading passages from the Bible and singing Christmas carols. Looking back now, it really was a wonderful thing. As a kid however, it only served to delay the opening of presents so I did my best to up the tempo of some classic Christmas music in hopes of gaining a few precious seconds that could be better used to tear off wrapping paper. After what seemed like hours, but was likely only about 15 minutes, the pageant came to a close and it was on to the main event. In the blink of an eye, the family room resembled the aftermath of a tornado. Paper and ribbon strewn about, boxes and bags ripped open, it was quite a scene. At this point, the disappointment that came from knowing there were no more gifts to open was quickly trumped by the anticipation that this was simply Christmas #1 and there was much more to come…but only if we went home and went right to sleep!
As any kid will attest, sleeping on Christmas Eve is not an option. It’s almost not allowed. I’m sure at some point during the night every kid falls asleep for a bit, I mean how else would Santa get in and out without us knowing. But it is definitely the worst night’s sleep a kid can get in the course of the year. Thankfully, I had many toys and games in my room to keep me occupied as I waited for the sun to come up. Most years, my little sister would come into my room and we would discuss the possibilities of what might be waiting for us downstairs. We were instructed by our parents that we were not to go downstairs without them and were not to wake them up prior to a certain time. Each year, we did our best to follow those instructions but inevitably failed. “Is it 8:00 yet?” Georgeann would ask me. “It’s 7:22,” I replied. “That’s close enough!”
We were bouncing off the walls of our parents’ bedroom as they tried to wipe the sleep from their eyes. They’d grumble and moan about how early it was but I knew they were just as excited as we were…at least that’s what I chose to believe. Mom needed her coffee in the morning so she volunteered to head downstairs first to see if Santa had indeed stopped by. We waited at the top of the stairs in breathless anticipation for her to give the go ahead and then we raced down the steps. It’s amazing we didn’t end up in the emergency room each year considering I don’t think we actually touched any of the steps as we charged down them. The Christmas tree was set up in our family room which was at the back-end of the house so as we finished our decent, we weren’t able to see what lay ahead. It wasn’t until we made it through the living room and dining rooms that we were stopped in our tracks by the site of what can only be described as an avalanche of presents under the tree.
Each year on Christmas Eve night I would contemplate the things I thought might have gotten me on the naughty list that year. “I shouldn’t have called Timmy a dork last week, that was so stupid.” I’d think to myself. “And when I knocked over the candy dish a few months ago and blamed it on Georgeann…what was I thinking!” I was always preparing myself for the possibility of little or no presents and each year I was greeted with what seemed like more than the previous year. Just standing there staring at the tree was 5 of the most wonderful seconds I spent each year. But 5 seconds was enough, there was work to be done!
Santa, in his infinite wisdom, had instructed his elves to wrap me and my sister’s gifts in different paper and label them “J” and “G”. In quickly surveying the loot in front of me, I could see it was a pretty even split. Oh well, I suppose she deserved some presents too. We took our spots on opposite sides of the tree and began what was only the first leg of a marathon of present opening that started at our house and would eventually end at our Grandparents’. Despite the scores of gifts, we were able to roll through them in short order and bask in the glow of our bounty. Nearly everything I had written on my list now rested under the tree, with the exception of a gift or two. Mom and Dad would ask if we got everything we wanted and the answer was always yes. We had been told that Santa may have left additional presents for us at our Grandparents’ house as well so there was no time to waste, we had to get up there!
We usually had a couple of hours to waste in between Christmases since we weren’t expected at Grandmom’s until around 1:00pm and we had gotten started with our Christmas while it was still dark outside. I would help Dad with the presents we were taking to their house in an effort to pass the time. There were many gifts to pack up since the whole family would be together. After spending Christmas Eve with Dad’s folks, this was Christmas with Mom’s family and the gift giving was a real event with them. The car was packed and we headed out. My Grandparent’s house was about 12 miles away but the trip seemed to take hours. Finally, we made it to their street and the excitement was at defcon 4! My stomach was churning as we pulled into the driveway and I made a beeline for the front door.
As the door swung open, I was practically swallowed up by the sea of presents that filled the room. If you had to describe the color of the carpet to someone based solely on what you saw on Christmas Day, it would be impossible. The floor was not visible and walking around was not an option. You simply had to make your way through the jungle of gifts, find a spot you could fit in, and get comfortable. When the family got together for normal Sunday dinners, the meal was the highlight of the day. Not on this day however, as dinner was simply a way to re-energize in between gift giving.
Once everyone had arrived, we would traditionally begin with the exchanging of Secret Santa gifts. My sister and I were not involved in this portion of the day since it was only for the “adults”, so we would be thrown the occasional gift to open so we didn’t go crazy waiting for it to be over. Finally, the adult swim was over and the kids were allowed back in the pool! The rest of the afternoon was a blur, I may have blacked out at some point. All I know is at the end of the day, another massive stack of presents sat next to me and any items not previously crossed off the list, now were. As slow as the clocks seemed to move on Christmas Eve, was as fast as they moved on Christmas Day. All the excitement and anticipation that had built up for weeks was over in the blink of an eye. The next several days were spent sorting through the rubble and enjoying the fruits of everyone’s labor. Of course there was the obligatory “fashion show” where I had to try on every piece of clothing I received, but that was tolerable as long as I knew I could play with toys when it was over. Another Christmas in the books, and it was even better than the year before. Time to start preparing for next year and making sure to stay on the right side of Santa’s naughty or nice list.
So there you go folks, a little trip down memory lane and a glimpse into a typical Christmas in my family. Those are memories I will always cherish and I look forward to making more of them as my own family grows. Hope this helped anyone who was in need of a little holiday cheer. Time to get in the spirit if you haven’t already and for those members of my family out there, better start preparing for another marathon Christmas event!