From the Archives…

Note: This is a post from two years ago…you know, before I met most of you.  It explains a little more about me, and my feelings about Christmas…

When I was a little girl, I loved Christmas.

In the middle of the hot Oklahoma summer, I played Christmas carols on my little record player. I hoarded the December issues of Woman’s Day and Family Circle magazines, committing to memory the instructions for making decorations from cardboard tubes and colored paper,( crafting in the 70’s was much less sophisticated than it is today! ) and wishing I was old enough to bake any of the dozens of cookie recipes they contained.  One year, I wrapped the legs of  the tea-party table with paper and drew a fireplace to hang “stockings” from. (Note to my mother – this was BEFORE we moved to a house with a fireplace. I thought I needed one!)

Mom did a lot of eye-rolling.

Presents from Santa were a part of the fascination, as they would be for any child, but they really weren’t the main reason for my near-obsession. No, what I loved most about the holiday was the magic. The feeling of wonder and anticipation that filled my heart when the weather turned colder and cinnamon and pine scented the air. Candlelight and carols, boxes and bows. I lived for Christmas.

I don’t remember when or how I stopped believing in Santa, but I think I was 12 before I gave up hoping. For many kids, I think the spirit starts to wane once the cat is out of the bag about Santa. Not for me. That was the first “adult” secret I was privy to, charged as a keeper of the myth, preparing to pass along one of our cultural touchstones to the next generation. No way I was going to steal the magic from another child the way the boys at school did when they laughed at the younger ones on the playground. (Note to my brother – I  really thought you all ready knew!)

All through my school years, Christmas grew in my soul. The music we sang in choir, from that first awkward rendition of   The Hallelujah Chorus in the seventh grade to the haunting candlelight cantata we did in high school, deepened the meaning of the season. My friends and I exchanged small gifts. A tiny tree sparkled on my bedside table.

Then came 20 years of retail.

At first I thought I could handle it. True, it is easier to keep the spirit alive when there are young children in the house, but the constant forced holiday cheer eventually wore me down. The decorations languished in their boxes, the cookies went unbaked. Christmas Eve ceased to be a night for church and dinner with friends and little ones in footed pajamas, and instead became a workday that began at 4:30 am,(often after spending 14 hours at the store the day before)and ended at 5pm. Collapsed in bed by 7. Hoping to be awake the next morning in time to set everything up before the kids came home from their father’s house.

One year, I found myself wrapping the last of their presents less than an hour before I expected them home. Huge, silent tears rolled down both cheeks. The magic was gone. It had slipped away like a dream does upon waking – the tighter you try to grasp it, the further it recedes, until you wonder if it ever was.  I knew it had been real, and I mourned for it – and for the little girl who had loved it so fiercely.

It’s been three years since I last worked a Christmas shift. Recovery is slow, and not always sure. I’ve been waiting for the Christmas Girl to come home. I get a glimpse of her every now and then, but she’s shy.

So I went looking for her.

I told Hubby last summer that I wanted to come to France in early December to see it dressed for the holidays. We spend most of our vacation time in Paris, but always arrange a side-trip to somewhere new. When I read about the  Fete de Noel, it had to be Strasbourg.

It could have been cheesy, or false, or a tourist-trap, and destroyed the last echoes of the Christmas Girl. I was almost afraid to risk it.

It wasn’t cheesy, it was wonderful. There was music, and food and …magic. Children stare wide-eyed at Father Christmas when he asks if they’ve been good.The heady fragrance of mulled wine wafts down the street. Lights twinkle on rooftops and treetops.

She’s here somewhere, I know she is.

Maybe just around the next corner…


34 thoughts on “From the Archives…

  1. Reading between the lines I know she’s there! Our two kids and their husband/girlfriend will be home for Christmas – that is my gift! We don’t go crazy with meals prefering to spend the time together laughing, talking, singing, eating – we’ll have lasagne Christmas Eve, fondue Christmas Day, good breakfasts to start each day and lots of snacks in-between – but nothing worrisome! Enjoy your holiday and I’m sure that magic will return – possibly in the vivid blue eyes of a little one!

    • Sounds like a wonderful time!
      There were plenty of stressful things about the ‘old’ holiday for me, but putting a meal on the table was never one of them…I love doing it, and it relaxes me.
      Of course, now that everyone helps clean up, it’s that much better!

  2. Wel,l I do understand this one. Did you find a little bit more christmas spirit in your last trip to Paris? NO MORE Christmas RETAIL for you I hope! Though in the end i think we all find our own levels. Our own ways. I hope you have found your little happiness corner. celi

  3. Beautiful post – I think we come full circle. Loving Christmas as children, sceptical teenagers, hard working stressed adults and then back again to (almost) believe in Santa and definitely believing in the magic and hoping that even if we can only all be nice to each other for one day a year…well, that´s not such a bad thing is it?!

    • Thanks, Tanya.
      I think the gut-punch for me was that I didn’t go through that cynical phase. I kept right on with the carols and the decorating and the crafts right up until the bottom fell out.
      I’m not back where I want to be, but it’s better than where I’ve been.

  4. My dear, the very fact that you are *looking* for Christmas Girl says that she’s not gone but she’s simply somewhere quiet resting up from some hard abuse. Faith is like that, whether in a person-place-or-thing more tangible or in something more spiritual: sometimes it’s vivid and present, and sometimes hard to even remember let alone grasp. The desire to reclaim that faith says that it still has meaning at some level and may be reawakened eventually.

    I say this with some conviction as I have had a very similar experience (though with my own peculiarities of flavoring, of course) with Christmas and with a few other ‘articles of faith’ in my life–I think I’m somewhat on the upswing of rediscovery in many ways. Art and writing are perhaps the biggest of those areas, and I am incredibly grateful for the nudges that led me to blogging, where my faith in the life of an artist/writer is being so beautifully refueled by people like you, Marie. So even if you’re not feeling the Christmas spirit entirely as you’d like, I must say thank you for sharing in a grand pre-Christmas gift that is raising *my* spirits immensely this year!

  5. I’m glad you have good memories of your childhood, at Christmas and in the summer/Christmas that you created. I remember the paper fireplace and the magazines. Your dad put that table together on the carport of our small house in Columbus, GA. He made a lot of noise…. both with the hammer and because he hit his hand!!! Thank goodness it was warm that Christmas in Georgia.

    • Oh, never doubt that our Christmases were wonderful when we were kids! I think I can safely speak for Little Brother there, too… I was telling someone just yesterday about those lights we always put on our tree, and how you and Dad saved the boxes, and they were carefully replaced in them after the holidays…for more than 30 years!
      I’ll bet if you pluged them in today, they’d still shine…

  6. I know exactly what you mean. I can remember when I found out about Santa, it just wasn’t the same. When my children were little and we could play Santa, it was there again. Now though, it is gone again. Christmas is a time of uncertainty this year. Not sure what is happening.

  7. I feel sorry for retail workers this time of year. Luckily, I’ve always been laid off retail jobs before the holiday rushes (several of my many day jobs, of course). They’re like caged birds I just want to free. Maybe I should start getting them fired?

  8. Wonderful post Marie. I think sometimes many of us get so caught up in the obligations of the holidays that we forget the real purpose of believing and making it magical. I hope can keep that kindle alive just like the movie the polar express. Take Care, BAM

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