~Christmas in 1979? Maybe 1980? The American hostages had been held in Iran for a long time and we were told to pray for their safety and I did, even though I had no understanding of why they were taken hostage or even where Iran was, but that Christmas Eve there was a story on the news about how people should go outside and light a candle for the hostages' safe return, and my family dutifully tromped out of the house holding candles.
We stood there in the cold and watched people gathering outside their houses, the flames of their candles flickering in the darkness.
~The first Christmas with my husband and we didn't have much money for presents and he bought me a book from a used bookstore about the history of football and I made a joke about it. I had no interest in football and the book seemed kind of shabby for a gift.
Years later he told me how hurt he was, that he'd just wanted to share his interest with me, and now I wish I could go back in time and shake some sense and kindness into my snotty twenty-four year old self.
~A few months after my father died, my mother was an overwhelmed mom with three little kids who still believed in Santa. In the morning we were opening presents and my mother was running around getting a dinner ready to host our relatives and I noticed her stocking was empty and it hit me, at age seven, that it was a pretty crappy thing for Santa to have overlooked my mother.
Outraged, I asked her about it and she said that it was okay, she didn't need any presents, but then she started talking about how she had no black olives to set out for our guests and how upset she was and what was she going to do without a can of black olives?? She went over to her stocking and would you believe it? There was a can of black olives inside!! She was so happy and I was so happy for her and I believed in Santa for another year.
~My husband and I moved to a new state and hardly knew anyone and one day after mass at church where we knew no one, I was holding my newborn baby girl and a man pulled me aside and asked me if my husband and I would be the Holy Family at the service on Christmas Eve and I said yes even though I had no idea what that entailed, and then I forgot to tell my husband about it until we were driving to Christmas Eve mass. The church was packed and my husband, who was not Catholic, and I and our baby were taken into a back room and dressed in costumes and given our lines to speak.
I could see my husband glaring at me, mortified, holding his wooden staff and wearing his Joseph costume as he said his lines about there being no room at the inn. We walked down the aisle of the crowded church together, a holy family in the midst of strangers, holding our baby, up to the altar, where the priest took our baby and held her over his head and said, "This is why we are here today."
~The last Christmas my father was alive, and I was six years old and we were visiting my aunt who lived close by. Christmas Eve, up way past my bedtime and almost sick with anticipation of the next day and Santa coming. When the party was over, we walked home in the dark and my father said, Look! He picked me up and pointed at the black sky, the misty night, the sparks of stars.
Listen, he said. Do you hear it? The bells. The bells on Santa's sleigh.
I looked. I listened. I saw the lights flashing. And I swear heard the bells, clear as any sound in the world.