I loved going down town in our little city and walking the slushy sidewalks, seeing and hearing the bell ringers on the street corners, peeking in the windows of the shops. My feet still remember that sudden whoosh of surprise at catching an extra sloshy pile of snow and having it slip inside my shoe. I’d stand at the corner, my gloved hand in Mom’s, stamping my foot while waiting for the police officer with his whistle to make certain the road was clear before we crossed the street. I loved the crowds of people, the decorated light poles, the bustle of it all.
The Five and Dime store held my interest even more than the candy counter and the elevator at the department store during that time of year. Slowly making my way down each aisle I’d look at all the treasures I could possibly buy to give as gifts to my siblings and parents. I imagined their surprise at opening up a wrapped package with such wonders tucked inside. I pictured their happy faces and knew I’d absolutely have to buy this item or that trinket. At least, until I happened upon the next perfect gift. Choosing among such possibilities seemed beyond my abilities at such a young age. Back then I think I’m certain that price held little meaning and the decision process probably involved my mother ruling out the overpriced items.
Occasionally I’d see some toy that spoke to my soul. I knew I’d stumbled on the gift that surely Santa would leave for me under the tree. I didn’t always tell Mom about it, though, since I didn’t recognize her important role in making certain Santa knew what I dreamed of receiving.We’d also make a separate trek downtown with the entire family to visit the Christmas Village with those traditional lighted walkways and glittering trees. It seemed as though nothing ever changed; the same lights and displays in the same place each year lent continuity and stability to my young life. And, of course, it seemed we always picked the coldest night of the year for this endeavor, for no amount of bundling kept me warm enough. Fortunately hot chocolate waited for us in a thermos in the car and sleep usually overtook me on the drive back home. Is there anything to compare with being carried inside from the car to the bed, sleep barely nudged by the removing of boots and gloves and coat? I think not. I felt so very loved in that act.
I also recall walking door to door with a small group of neighbors, carrying plates of goodies and decorated boxes filled with fruit and treats. We’d stop at the homes of mostly widows and elderly people. We’d sing some Christmas carols, with me mangling the words as I tried my best to sing along. As we’d leave each house we’d belt out “we WISH you a merry Christmas” which I knew well and could sing loudly and with confidence. I don’t recall feeling particularly cold, in spite of trudging through snow, while singing and treating. I think being in a group kept me warm, but it could have been some warmth within from the joy of it all that kept me toasty.On Christmas eve we’d ask Dad (since he had the biggest foot size) if we could borrow one of his socks to set out for Santa to fill. We didn’t have a fireplace, so we set them on the floor next to the furnace knowing full well that we’d find an orange, some nuts and some candy plumping up each sock.
I’m sure I’m idealizing what I remember. But isn’t that what we do with our childhood?
Or maybe, just maybe, I’m remembering it all exactly as I experienced it. After all, I didn’t have glasses yet and the world still came across as a bit hazy and foggy. My focus, being nearsighted, always zeroed in on nearby and up close things. The rest of the world melted to the background while I lived in a bubble. What a wonderful world, too!
I like to imagine I could put all those memories in a sort of snow globe that I shake up several times during the month of December. The flakes fall around that idyllic distant scene and I look on with child-like yearning for a Christmas long past.