It’s a bit cliche, but this time of year always gets me feeling a little nostalgic. Perhaps some of you are the same way. I find myself rolling old holiday memories around and around in my head, reliving them, remembering who was there, how things looked, the smells, tastes and sounds. My family celebrates Christmas, so my memories are of things like Santa Claus, decorated trees, cinnamon and balsam, nativity scenes and singing carols in a warm, candlelit church. Some of the memories have faded or frayed a bit, but many are as vivid as when they first occurred. I’d like to tell you about one of them.
My favorite and most vivid Christmas memory actually spans multiple years and involves imprisonment of my brother and I at the hands of Santa Claus. In those quiet nighttime hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, Santa would land his sleigh on our roof and come down our chimney with his sack full of wonderful presents to put under our tree. Santa knew my brother and I were so excited about Christmas morning, he wanted to make sure we stayed put in our rooms until he was done with his work. Because, you know, he had quite a bit to do. He had to fill our stockings with chocolates, books, little toys and an orange in the toe, and he had to arrange every gift just so, in a perfect cascade under the tree. This was important stuff. Santa could not be distracted, nor could he be interrupted. But little Caroline and Josh were liable to wake up at any moment, open our bedroom doors and wander right out in the middle of it all. So, what was Santa to do?
Well, being an enterprising magical elf, Santa came up with an ingenious solution: he took rolls of red and green crepe paper streamers, twisted the strands and taped crazy, nonsensical crisscrosses over our bedroom doorways to barricade us in. His eyes undoubtedly twinkled as he took this precaution, a little grin playing over his round face. “That should do it,” he must’ve thought, pleased with himself as he finished and tucked away his crepe paper, scissors and tape. Now he could relax and comfortably go about the business of laying out our presents, rewarding his good work at the end by drinking the eggnog and eating the cookies we’d left for him, leaving nothing but a smear in the glass and a few crumbs on the plate. And, just before he left, he’d give the carrot we’d left to Rudolph. Rudolph must’ve loved that carrot, because all that was ever left was the stem end. We never knew if he shared with the other reindeer.
In any case, on Christmas morning, usually well before we were supposed to get up, and when the sky was just beginning to show daylight, one of us would crawl out of bed and open our door. And, as we saw the barricade, fluttering so slightly there in the doorway, we knew. Santa had been there. And I’d urgently whisper through the other door to my brother, or he to me, to GETUPGETUPGETUP! And the other door would open and the other barricade would flutter. And my brother and I would look out further, and there was a trail of nuts and oranges leading out to the living room. That Santa, always dropping stuff. And we’d look even further and see the new shapes and glint of colors under the tree. THE PRESENTS WERE THERE.
Now, you might think we crashed right through those barricades in our rush to get out to the loot. You would be mistaken. We treasured those crepe paper crisscrosses. And Santa always seemed to design the barricade just so there was one space through which a small child could squeeze without breaking a single strand. The barricades usually lasted about two weeks, until one day when my brother and I would both decide that it was time, and we’d go ripping through them with glee.
I now know, of course, it was actually our parents’ doing, and have since found out the tradition comes from my Grandma, my Dad’s mom. So did the trail of nuts and oranges, which was actually a practice left over from the Depression. But, when I was a little girl, it was all Santa’s doing. And it was magical. Such a brilliant idea, actually. So elegant in its simplicity. In fact, it’s such a wonderful memory, I’ve found myself enthusiastically recommending it to my friends who now have young children.
A few years back, now fully grown and long past notions of Santa Claus, my brother and I visited my Dad and stepmom out in Arizona for Christmas. We each settled in to a twin bed there in the guest bedroom and slept the uninterrupted Christmas Eve sleep of adulthood. On Christmas morning, we woke up and opened the door, and my heart leapt a bit because, oh my goodness, the crazy criscross barricade was there. Even all these years later, Santa hadn’t forgotten. And it was still completely and utterly magical.
I won’t get the chance to post anything on the blog again until after the New Year, so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you reading the happiest of holidays. And, now that I’ve shared my favorite holiday memory with you, I’d love to hear yours. What do you remember most fondly about this time of year?
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