When I began writing early last week, I did it because I was missing my mom. And because I wasn’t at all in the mood for Christmas. The transformative power of words continually surprises me, even though no one believes in that power more than I do. Instead of missing my mom tremendously and feeling bummed, I began to celebrate who she was and what she brought to the holiday each year.
When I stepped off the front porch steps into the crunchy yellowing grass of winter, I was already looking left. Just barely downhill from me and across the street was my bestie, Debbie. We operated with only two settings: best friends and I never want to see you again. I can remember so many stomp offs where I said that very phrase and yet I didn’t last even the afternoon before I was back at the best friend setting again. Fortunately, a third setting of ah, just forget it, this friendship is too much trouble did not exist. It was always worth the trouble. And we always patched it up.
I grew up in Florida. Everybody knows it doesn’t snow in Florida. Not even that final northernmost strip of land that lies down in a bed next to Georgia. We didn’t understand the sentiments behind the song, “White Christmas” and I never once hoped for one. Why would I waste my time? The best we could hope for was the temperature dropping below 68 degrees. So we could wear us some Christmas gloves. And not sweat.
In December of 1979, my parents planned a trip to Gatlinburg. We would leave 2 days after Christmas and we would be there for my birthday. I was on board with this trip, because I loved Gatlinburg, but they seemed to be selling it to me as if I wasn’t already a buyer. It was advertised as my birthday trip. As a trip for me. I’m smart enough now to know an obvious sales pitch. Back then, I was not. I bought the lines and began to think of the trip as a vacation planned for me and around me.
There’s no way that was true. It wasn’t even a little bit true. Because if it had been, this story wouldn’t be typing itself. There wouldn’t be a story here at all.
Growing up, Christmas Eve was a magical time. I’m not sure how much of that magic came from the anticipation of Santa and the morning to come and how much of it came from the fact that by 3 p.m. Christmas day, the ornaments were back in their crypt and the tree was at the curb like the dead shrub that it was. We had to soak up the magic quick before our mother got hold of it with her efficient little fingers. We knew this. We responded accordingly, all of us. We had to hurry up and rejoice already.