Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Somehow, Not Only at Christmas ...

Somehow, not only at Christmas, but all the long year through, 
The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you.
    -- John Greenleaf Whittier

Somehow, not only at Christmas, but all the long year through, 
My sis and I sing this song -- and never fail to crack up. Wait, that doesn't rhyme.
    -- Doodie and Sue Sczubelek 

This Whittier quote was on a Christmas card our Aunt Bet once sent us. It was scotch-taped up on the front door of 837 Lehigh with all the rest of the holiday greetings my parents received each year.

One night, feeling silly and inspecting all of these cards, mostly from people we didn't know, for some reason my sister and I turned it into a song (I think it was more of my goofball doing). The most notable parts are how high your voice has to rise for the "joy that you give to others" phrase, and then how low it has to go to end with the decisive, formal "Whit-tier-rrrr."

As an adult, when my sister found this verse on a Christmas card, she bought the box and informed me that I would be receiving one every year until they were gone. I think I have 12 so far.

I have always loved, loved, loved Christmas. That and my birthday, with Christmas edging out even the miraculous entrance of moi.

When I was a kid, we would get a tree a few days before Christmas, but it would remain undecorated until Christmas Eve, when my parents would string the lights and hang the ornaments while we were sleeping. Christmas Eve, we would each open one gift, and share the Oplatek Christmas wafer around the dinner table, which would be filled with cold salads and meats. The older of the six kids would go off to Midnight Mass.

The next morning, after opening our presents stacked in individual piles around the living room, we would line up by age -- me first -- and Dad would descend to the den to plug in the tree lights. We would file down into the magical darkness, to the glowing tree and more presents, along with our stockings -- each nailed to a stair in descending order of age. Mine would be filled with barley pops; bell-shaped, foil-wrapped chocolates; Lifesaver "books"; a toothbrush; and other precious treats.

Ever since junior year in college, I've gotten a tree and decorated for the holidays -- whether I had to ferry it home in a taxi in Boston, or with my convertible top down in San Francisco.

Until last year.

You see, I have my own tradition -- and that is, when I wrap up all the Christmas decorations after the holidays, I think about what the coming year will bring. When I unwrap the decorations next year, what will have transpired? Will I be single? Will I have a new job? A new house?

Last year, in the wake of the attack, I was so weirded out that 10 months prior, when I had been packing away the Christmas decorations, I had had no idea that I might not live to another Christmas ... that I couldn't do it. No tree, no decorations.

This year, however, I'm making up for it. The minute those divinely scented pines are tagged for sale, one is coming home with me. I'm going to ice skate on one of the outdoor rinks they set up for the season in the city. I'm going to sing along to the Messiah at Mission Dolores church. I'm going to have a holiday party (you're invited!). I am going all out.

After all, time is the present.

1 comment:

Shaken Mama said...

What if you were playing the guitar and that Christmas "tradition" happened just once? I know it didn't, but it made me laugh to think that you got a barley pop once and then extrapolated this whole story about it.

PS: Chebbles is ready to do ANYTHING Christmasy, in case you need a kid as a prop at any point.