Unopened Christmas Cards

The Ghost Of Christmas Presents

I recall the anticipation of Christmas presents being added under the tree during December, and every time a new present appeared, we kids, in a rush, would check out for whom the present was designated.  My mother thought it was occasionally entertaining to deposit presents with no gift tag.  She was incorrect in her assessment.  How could we stand to wait the handful of days until Christmas actually arrived to open our gifts?  Yet every year, we managed to make it to December the twenty-fifth without any major travesty.  Even among us kids, we perfected an agreed plan of attack as to what we would open first, Christmas mornings that were remarkably equitable and organized for a group of youngsters.  In hindsight, I don’t think my youngest brother had much of a say in how we began Christmas morning – he just went along with our existing shenanigans.

When I had kids of my own, we developed dramatically different routines.  One of my sons, not a morning person, would sleep later than me on Christmas morning.  As a parent, if you think that sounds fabulous to be able to sleep in on Christmas morning, you would be correct.  By the time his younger brother was of age to wake him, I was a single parent and Christmas plans involved swapping kids on Christmas Day from one house to another.  Their Christmas-morning routine became an entirely different experience where the priority for began as a rush from one house to the other to open more gifts.  That’s not Christmasy.  I separated the unwrapping into two separate days, allowing the boys to savor the gifts at one house, knowing there would be time to play with them and welcome all the new toys and clothes, and games and gifts into one house before starting into round two of Christmas.  In short, I again dictated the plans of Christmas morning to maximize the jubilance.

The Ghost Of Christmas Past

The lack of presents typifies the Christmas experience as a single parent.  Typically, grandparents provide a token gift of something necessary, such as new bath towels or a toaster, which lacks the same wrapping-paper-ripping enthusiasm of childhood.  Christmas, as an adult, revolves around watching others receive objects, and opening the cards that come in the mail reminding us of friends we no longer see, but delightfully remember.  In fact, with my children always absent either Christmas Eve or Christmas Night, I spend the quiet of the occasion opening and reading the thoughts, seeing the updated growth of friends’ children in seasonal family photos, and catching up with everyone I have missed during the year.  It’s less tangible, but a far better gift.  Suddenly, life changes altered my holiday routine.  Even after the kids left the nest, I still enjoyed Christmas morning with my far-away friends courtesy of my stockpiled mail, until the year I moved from Utah to North Dakota for Christmas.

I spent Christmas Eve packing my remaining belongings and Christmas Day loading my car.  As an extra ‘stocking-stuffer’ of sorts, I banged my head on the rear hatch three times.  I took my stack of well-wishes, plus the handful of good-bye cards from my recently farewelled co-workers, and packed them along with all the other last-minute objects, planning to read them after the New Year.  Of course, by Valentine’s Day I was ensconced in work, and by Easter I spent most of my free time commuting, so the cards and the thoughts remained boxed.  When I finally opened them, including the additional Christmas cards I squirreled away for half a decade in the meantime, I discovered years of memories packed into a pile that brought more joy, more memories, and more emotion than any childhood holiday.  The ghosts of past Christmases, all unfurled at once, remind me that I need to make time for the words and the thoughts of others.  I’m thankful I kept every one of those cards, even if it took me almost five years to read and unwrap them.