When I was a kid, I had a big problem. Every December 25th I would rise early, head down to the basement, see bulging stockings hung along the fireplace with care, and barf.
I couldn’t handle the excitement. The buildup to Christmas morning was particularly intense because I come from a pretty big family. Five kids. The tree would be brimming with presents long before the big day. My mom, a Catholic, would whisk us off to church on Christmas Eve to sing carols. This was where the cold sweats would start. It was coming. Christmas was coming!!
I think I was 10 or 11 before I got over my barfing. Things really settled down when I entered my teens. Ripping open yet another pair of knitted slippers from Auntie Flo (names and events have not been altered) didn’t hold quite the same mystery and suspense that it had in my younger years. Somewhere in there, for a good five year stretch, Santa’s gift to each of us became a cheap, pocket sized day timer clearly embossed with the name of my dad’s company. My dad also gifted one to himself “from Santa”. Hilarious right?
Christmas day didn’t evolve much through to my mid 20’s. There remained the predictable routine of stockings, followed by an endless morning church service, followed by an endless big breakfast, followed by endless gift opening (one present at a time, youngest to oldest, with seven of us), followed by an endless break for the Queen’s message, followed by more gifting, until the final present was opened at dusk. True, I have developed a superior tolerance for delayed gratification, but it almost killed me.
When I broke free of this Christmas morning ritual in my late twenties – to marry the first man who showed any interest in me and did not come from a large family – Christmas took on a bit of a shine again. I happily shopped for my husband and was delighted by the presents he gave me. In hindsight I wonder how great the presents actually were, considering they only had to beat out the hotel soaps, shower caps and mini-shampoos that my travel writer mother took to gifting each of her adult children sometime in the late 90’s. Believe it when I say it had me longing for the heydays of the day timer.
When I had very young children of my own, I never enforced any rules around the opening of presents, other than don’t eat the paper. Shortly after my daughters had turned three and one, Christmas took yet another turn. That was the year I asked my saviour of a husband for lingerie (hint, hint) and instead received a wristwatch.
***Word of warning ladies: If you ever ask your husband for lingerie for Christmas and get anything other than lingerie for Christmas, your marriage is over.***
Three weeks later he walked out, and suddenly in my early 30’s the barfing was back. You’d think, given his gift to me, I could tell you the exact time of day my husband left but I can’t, because I distinctly remember standing in my frumpy, UN-sexy flannels and shoving the wristwatch up his leaving ass.
It’s been ten years since. The girls are old enough now that despite my efforts to resist, they are practiced in the long, drawn out, one gift at a time and only one person at a time ritual. There aren’t seven of us mind you, and if I do say so myself the gifts between us are thoughtful and not collected from hotel stays or my place of work. It also allows them to see the delight on my face when I open their gifts to me and vice versa. All is well.
Okay, not exactly. You see, there is still the original family of seven thing.
So, about our month long, seven-way email exchange just to plan for Christmas Day…