When I think of Christmas I simply cannot not think of my mom. For me, she is so intertwined with the holiday that she is more representational than even Santa. Not a surprise as she always (yes, always) dons a fuzzy or fluffy, depending on the year, Mrs. Claus outfit. Her zest for this holiday is something to behold, and while it's waffled from being thrilling to neutral to outright annoying to me over the years, I cherish it deeply. There's something about someone who is so passionate about something that they simply won't be put off by any negative reaction and are unbelievably encouraged by any positive response.
There would be at least 100 gifts under the tree each year. I kept careful count, inventorying them daily and enforcing the "fairness" laws...and "fair" was achieved if I had the same amount or more than my brother. Most were wrapped in rolls of awesome 70s wallpaper she'd bought cheap along the way, and were covered in the biggest bows ever. The area surrounding the tree was so full that my brother and I would start opening presents, one per night, in advance of Christmas, and then the remainder would be opened Christmas Eve. It was amazing! After we opened all of our presents, my dad would read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and we'd hang our stockings up in synch with the book. After he finished we were all "Santa's helpers" and put some of our own gifts in each others' stockings. Two very excited kiddos were sent to bed and my mom mentally prepared to do her night's task.
Christmas Day...it was quite the scene. Balloons everywhere, HUGE stuffed animals she'd gotten at garage sales, shoes with our family members' faces painted on them (those were mine), and any other BIG stuff she had picked up over the year that was to big to wrap. My favorite thing about Christmas was the happy face sticker Santa always left on my and my brother's P.J.s when he was about to leave our house. We'd find more stickers throughout the day in other spots of the house. Happy faces on art work and such, sad faces on messes we had neglected to clean up. Every Christmas morning when I woke up, I'd check to see if there was a sticker on me yet. If not, I dared not leave my room and I would do my best to fall back asleep. When I did finally get up as a really wee one I'd consistently wake up just minutes after my mom had managed to get everything set up, and I'd be ready to dig through it all! Poor thing was probably cross-over-buggy-exhausted. The brunt of the set up and display was most definitely on her shoulders, 90% because it was her passion, and 10% because my dad's mobility was limited and thus his ability to help. They'd try to ignore my excited requests for them to join me, and when they'd put me off I'd entertain myself by dissecting everyone's stockings and then replacing it all. And, gosh, those stockings were stuffed! She, literally, Christmas shopped all year long.
What's funny is every year my mom would have forgotten where she'd hidden many gifts throughout the year. She'd remember what they were, but had no clue where they were. She'd tell us about them because, as you know, it is the thought that counts, right?
Things have evolved over the years. I've developed my own Christmas routines and rituals, and my mom has fit into our plans as we must attend three different celebrations each year. She still dons her Mrs. Claus outfit each year (sometimes with a Santa hat and sometimes with Christmas do-dads clipped in her hair). She still uses wall paper to wrap presents. She's still the biggest contributor to the affair, gift-wise (this year we gave her a mug and a magnet and she gave us a box full of goodies). And, she still shops all year long for Christmas gifts...there's something quite lovely about her thinking of us when she's out and about. We might not like what she chooses for us all the time, but she's absolutely correct, it IS the thought that counts.
Thanks, mom, for making Christmas amazing, dream-fulfilling, magical, and weird for the last 44 years. Love you!