Ten days to go. As usual, I started to feel complacent since I did a small amount of my Christmas shopping kind of early (for me this means the beginning of December). But then it's like I forgot that I have several people left to buy for and not a whole lot of time in which to do it. However, I have at least learned that the mall on Christmas eve isn't crowded at all. I will do what I can to make sure that a Christmas eve trip is not required, but, well, at least I know it's an option.
And, hey, I've got one less person to buy for. And in looking through some of Dad's stuff I did happen to discover a shirt I bought him for Christmas last year, still all neatly folded with the department store cardboard inside it. I've bought him clothes in the past that he has worn, but apparently missed the mark last year.
So, let's state the obvious that I am not looking forward to Christmas all that much this year. I mean, who looks forward to the first holidays without a parent? Especially one who left way too early? Now, I do think it could be harder than it probably will be. Dad was always more of a background figure at the holidays. Every Christmas of my entire life has been spent at my mother's mother's house, and my mom has a whole lot of brothers and sisters who are a whole lot more vocal than my father ever was. Dad was never one to talk unless he really had something to say, and he definitely wasn't one to fight for attention at a table of thirty or so Irish in-laws. In fact, back when we had a dog he used to use that as an excuse to make his quiet exit.
Of course, just in our house, he was a major player in the Christmas morning rituals. My father used to get up at like 4:30 in the morning every single day... except Christmas. It used to drive me and my brother insane. I'm sure at some point it bugged my older sister, but by the time I was old enough to remember this kind of thing, she was old enough to not be quite as enthusiastic on Christmas morning.
My brother and I shared a room for a while when we were younger, and even in the years after I had moved into my own room I would usually sleep in the extra bed in his room on Christmas since he was upstairs and "away from Santa". It just seemed wrong to sleep on the same floor that Santa would be coming on. I rarely slept at all on Christmas eve. I just remember lying awake all night and wondering when it was going to be time to get up. We never went downstairs until everyone was up and we could go down together.
I don't know what time it was that my brother and I would start knocking on my parents' door to get them to wake up so we could go downstairs. I like to remember that it was more like 6, but Mom tells me it was a lot earlier than that. Either way, it always seemed that we couldn't go down until closer to 7:00 when they finally got up. Again, my mother I think tells me that they probably relented a lot earlier than that, but I know it wasn't 4:30, Dad's usual time to get up, which was what made it frustrating.
My sister would come upstairs and we'd wait impatiently until Dad finally led the way downstairs, to the right of which was the living room complete with the Christmas tree and three large piles of presents. They were never under the tree, we each had a designated spot. And we weren't the kind of family that sat around and watched each person open a present before moving onto the next person. It was just a free-for-all of ripping through the paper as fast as possible to find out all of the stuff we'd gotten. Then, when the dust settled, we'd go around and see what everyone else had gotten.
Eventually we'd sit down to breakfast and Dad would make freshly squeezed orange juice. This was all long before we'd finally go over to the chaos at Nana's house, where aunts, uncles and cousins made for a very full house and plenty more presents.
Obviously Christmas hadn't been exactly the same anymore, at least not the beginning part. It still winds up very similarly at Nana's, except now there are great grandchildren. I think this will be Christmas #54 at that house. We now go to my sister's house mostly to see the kids and their toys, because Christmas really isn't much fun unless at least somebody gets toys or is excited about Santa.
So, that was what Christmas used to be all about for me and my family. It's obviously not going to be quite the same. You know, a lot of times I can sort of ignore the whole thing because hey, it's not like he'd be around right now, right? Well, you can't really ignore it at Christmas.