There’s a Three-Foot Plaster Santa in My Hallway. He Stays There All Year Long. So I’m Wishing You Merry Christmas, Even If Someone Thinks It’s Wrong!

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, and holiday greetings of whatever kind are meaningful to you—or none at all if you prefer, although I hope that merriness and happiness and good cheer and joy are welcome sentiments for anyone at any season. We’ve mostly opted out of the holiday rush. The family’s children still get gifts, but we like to observe the fuss and bother as spectators, not participants. Last night brought the traditional Christmas Eve visit to a bad movie (thanks so much, 2012, you delivered!), although we had to forgo the traditional pizza for two for ninety-nine cent Jack-in-the-Box tacos. Double yum!

Merry Christmas. For me, these are words with wonders behind them:

The double doors opening at my grandparent’s home to reveal the tree, lit and heaped ‘round with presents for my cousin and me.

My Madame Alexander bride doll in ivory satin with a bouquet of roses and a long and lovely veil.

A red and black cowgirl outfit exactly like my cousin Sugar’s. We were beautiful in our fringed, embroidered, silver-studded finery.

Pajamas and hand-crocheted mukluks every year from grandma.

Candy canes and oranges and apples and a toy train filled with tiny round rainbow-colored candies in my stocking.

Snow falling softly while we caroled.

Believing in Santa Claus and getting a letter that proved that he was real.

Keeping that belief alive for my little brothers and sisters and my sons.

Geisha dolls from Uncle George, stationed far away, sending wonders from the other side of the world.

Making fudge.

Hot chocolate with extra marshmallows.

My mother playing carols on the piano.

Learning the words to “I have a little dreidel; I made it out of clay.”

Making a dreidel.

Not understanding what it meant to be Jewish when I lived in Detroit in a neighborhood that celebrated Hanukkah and not Christmas at the elementary school I attended.

Still being confused about how to spell Hanukkah. Is it Chanukah or Chanukkah or Hanuka or Chanukka or something else I haven’t seen?

Spending a whole month’s allowance to get grandma a long strand of sparkly blue crystal beads at the dime store.

Decorating every room of the house and being too tired to decorate anything.

Mom’s ambrosia.

Finally finding a Millennium Falcon.

Finally finding an Optimus Prime and discovering that his decals had been applied and that he’d been played with regularly and carefully hidden back in the closet.

Not buying an Easy Bake Oven and hearing about it every holiday season since.

Hiding clues for dozens of Christmas hunts and wrapping hundreds of Christmas pillowcase gifts in newspaper.

Mom’s pralines.

Walking down Flower Street in Santa Ana in the sunny warmth of a December day and crying as I sang “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” to myself. It wasn’t and it was my first snowless holiday ever.

Silent Night and Jingle Bells and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

We three kings of Orient are, tried to smoke a rubber cigar, it exploded. . .

Sea Monkey disappointment.

Our first VCR, a Betamax, and our first trip to a video rental store. What magic for movie lovers!

My favorite gift: snail tongs.

Pong—back and forth all day long.

A donut maker. A hot dog cooker. A bun toaster.

Returning our first answering machine gift and getting something more fun.


Ice skating with friends on a frozen stream through the woods as the snow fell quietly all around and thinking that no gift could be more perfect than that moment.

Grandma’s poppyseed roll.

Putting up the Christmas tree and leaving it up for years.

Getting in trouble in high school for keeping the doors to the family room closed while my boyfriend was over. He was helping me make and fill Christmas stockings for my whole family, seven people including grandma, and I didn’t want anyone to know.

Baking and decorating sugar cookies.

The Christmas when we gave our oldest son a BB-gun ad he promptly shot a hole in the neighbor’s very expensive picture window.

Making cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning and tacos for supper.

Hearing our youngest son come up the stairs at full speed shouting, “He brought me a bike! Santa brought me a bike! I can’t believe it! He brought me a bike!”

Seeing my son at the door when I thought he wasn’t coming home for Christmas.

About that plaster Santa. For decades he stood guard in my Aunt Mildred’s hallway and several years before she died, she passed him along to me. Every time I see him, I’m reminded of her love and her belief in me, the most meaningful gifts she ever gave me.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received or given?

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
• Charles Dickens

P.S. This has nothing to do with student success except that any kind of list of memories you make can be a neurobics exercise. It’s good for your brain and that never hurts.


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