Who I used to be
Sunday, December 18, 2005, 11:20 AM
Where is my Christmas spirit? I know it's born from within, like all the best feelings are. The good things. I can feel my Christmas spirit, but it's down at my knees, hesitant to come closer because I'm afraid to celebrate this awful, gaping wound of a year. I'm afraid of feelings that aren't true at all.
But I can still remember the magic of the holidays as a girl, when I felt (but never saw) the presence of Santa's elves in the coat closet, between the leaves of Mom's ficas plant, even in the bread box. I remember trying to be extra good that last week before Santa was due, and thinking back on my behavior of the past year. Was my name followed by a check mark on Santa's list? Had I been good enough for a new boom box, a pair of roller skates, and the latest Judy Blume book?
Falling asleep on Christmas Eve night was difficult. As much as I wanted Christmas Day to come, I didn't want the magic of the night, the feelings of anticipation or the dreams of what was to come, to just ... be over. This night was the best part of Christmas. I would lay in bed and stare at the multicolored lights in my bedroom window, wondering where Santa might be in the world at that moment. I thought about a woman who had to give birth in a cold barn stable because there was no room for her in a warm house. I imagined a star in the sky brighter than all of the others. I wondered what it would be like if an angel materialized in front of me right at that moment. I heard sleigh bells, smelled sugar plums and felt Santa's smile. And finally the night would wrap me in its arms and put me to sleep.
A lot of the time, my sister Rhonda and I would wake up hours before it was time for us to get up. We would sit in bed and giggle about whether or not Santa had already made it to our house. Was it safe to sneak out to the living room yet? Could it be that he was here now? We'd slide out of bed slowly, quietly, and tiptoe exaggeratedly down the hallway, poking each other's arms at an escaped snicker or the sound of an elbow against the wall because walking on tiptoes and trying to be quiet seemed to make us clumsy. I was always hesitant at making this trek because I never wanted to actually see Santa. We weren't supposed to. What if seeing him destroyed that feeling of magic? Please, please, please don't still be here, I'd pray.
He never was. But he'd always been. As we came around the hallway corner that led into the living room, we stepped into the warm light of the still-lit Christmas tree to see that once again, Santa had left too many presents to fit under it. Gaily wrapped boxes with big bows sat next to the footstool, in front of the bookcase, in front of the TV. Two bean bags invited us to sit in them and examine the contents of our stockings. On the end table by the couch was a plate with a half-eaten brownie on it and an empty glass of milk. I hoped Santa would come every year, but it was still a shock to see that he had, too. Also validating because Santa always thought that my sister and I had been very good girls.
Here I am today, the same girl and yet not the same girl. I am not who I imagined I would be, nor am I where I want to be or doing what I wanted to do. I no longer feel the safe, warm cocoon of magic that used to be mine. But I can find my Christmas spirit by remembering who I used to be and how I used to feel.