Friday, December 23, 2016

A Boomer Christmas Memory

Kids the world over are getting ancy.

BUT they are shining up their halos and trying to be "good" for only a couple more days.

In my family, the kids( of whatever generation) couldn't hack it.  Time stopped. Presents under the tree, from relatives "back East," which, growing up in California, was the whole world, cuz West was pretty much water for a loooong ways away.

After the youngest sib found out the jolly old man wasn't really related and thus had no power over us, we began to celebrate the holiday the Swedish way, which is, to open presents on Christmas Eve, because Christmas Day was the birthday of baby Jesus.


No more running screaming down the stairs at 0600 (or earlier) -  and altho the excruciating wait for the morning light was over, my dad, with a twinkle in his eye, found plenty of ways to keep "excruciating" in view.

After a dinner he ate soooooo sloooooowly, all the dishes had to be washed, dried and put away. No such thing as an automatic dishwasher in antediluvian days, my brother and I washed by hand, dried by hand, put away by hand - and, for one day of the year, no dawdling occurred.

None at all.

Then we had to "go get Grandma."

Now, my Grandmother was made of spun sugar - and steel. I loved her Swedish accent and ancient gingerbread cookie recipe, only concocted at Christmas, and decorated with little silver balls that broke your jaws with their rock hard exterior.

No one can make her gingerbread cookies.

All of us got the recipe directly from her.

And all of us agree: she didn't write down the entire recipe.

And no one has figured out what secret ingredient she forgot to include.

But I digress (a touch of excruciating here - just so you get a bit of the feeling)

She, of course, was in cahoots with my dad on the excruciating part.  My normally spry, up for anything, moving right along grandmother was always having a bad day on Christmas Eve.

Altho her eyes were also twinkling, she limped her way in from the cottage behind the main house, accompanied by the traditional Swedish moan of "Uff da!" with every step.

Every excruciatingly slow step.

Offers of "Let me help you, Grandma" were met with brave refusals of help, and in that Swedish accent I so loved, she would say "no, no, I come. I come."

After Grandma was seated, my dad would say, "Where's Mom?" and the search would begin anew. My mother was somewhere upstairs, wrapping a last minute gift, or looking for one she had misplaced, or whatever ex-cru-ciat-ing idea she came up with.

FINALLY all would be assembled and one of my brothers would begin to read the tags on a present and pass them out.

Trying to add a little speed to the process.

Only to have one or the other of my parents say, "Not so fast! Not so fast! One at a time."

Which, of course, would be met with the traditional chorus of our long, drawn out, excruciated Christmas groans.

And so it would go, until we had turned the pile of presents into ripped off sheets of obviously not recyclable wrapping paper, drawing from my mother the perfected, sad Christmas sigh.

Because we were not a wealthy family. My father worked many Saturdays doing painting jobs for a bit of extra cash.

My mother would always wrap a new pair of sox for each of us 4 kids to make the number of presents seem more prolific. She never agreed with my ungrateful, indignant and disgusted comment of "Moooom! Sox are NOT a real present!"

She would calmly smile - and say, "Yes, they are." And that would end the discussion.

The next generation of kids had, of course, one parent that wasn't used to the Swedish Christmas Eve early-opening-of-presents dispensation, so the kids would come over on Christmas Eve and open their presents from the grandparents and assorted uncles and aunt, and then get a second gig on Christmas morning to open stuff from Santa and/or, depending on their ages, their parents.

The generation after that had yet another parent unschooled in Swedish ways, and this one adamantly against this Swedish hocus pocus…. but got bartered into the position of the kids being able, on Christmas Eve, to open ONE single Christmas present of their choice, but they had to choose a gift from one of the non-parent people.

Which never seemed to be a problem.


And now another generation has begun to appear.

Another non-Swede has been added to the mix.

And it remains to be seen how this one will react.

The excruciating experiences of Swedish traditions 60+ years ago are now, seemingly, stowed away with the ghost of Christmas Past. I don't know if the barter will work with this one.

But I'm pretty sure of one thing:

I'll bet the kids growing up would agree with me 100% that sox are NOT a real present.