Happy holidays, and hearty ho-ho-ho to you and yours!
What is it about this time of year that makes us — well, OK, me — giddier than a four-year-old on Santa’s lap? As if by genetic, ingrained habit, moments after the last the last carved Halloween pumpkin head implodes upon itself, my sleep patterns change, I am distracted from the easiest of tasks, and just generally find myself moving through the day with an additional skip to my step, heady with anticipation of the parties and luncheons and accompanying year-end hoopla.
This giddiness might be traced to my childhood gift-getting experiences. What kid doesn’t wait with exquisite anticipation to tear into that wrapping that’s concealing our fondest dreams and wishes?
Looking back, it’s impossible not to recognize the many unmistakable little clues wrapped in tissue paper and foil — warnings, some might say — that I was a young lesbian in training.
My earliest holiday memory is of my third Christmas. Well, I think it’s a memory; maybe the actual memory is seeing that black-and-white Kodak snapshot with the scalloped edges of myself standing in front of a Christmas tree in my a butch striped T-shirt and corduroy jeans. Unseen are the boots I chose to wear day and night.
Either way, I swear I recall unwrapping the big rectangular box that was under that tree. Inside the box was the most pristine babydoll you’ve ever seen, complete with moveable arms and legs, hairplugs, and creepy blue eyes that opened and closed depending on whether the doll was sitting up or laying down. Fotr years, my mother told the story that I never even took the doll out of the box — a big, clanging alarm that traditional wife and motherhood were not in my future.
By the time I hit third grade, the Super Duper Blooper Gun topped my letter to Santa. I couldn’t wait to load it with ping-pong balls, pump the pressure cylinder, aim at my sister’s Barbie Dream House in which I normally played the Ken role and fire.
In sixth grade I got a football for Christmas — a white leather one, because my mother thought white was more feminine than traditional pigskin brown. That same year I got a purse — a brown leather one, ironically enough. It was not large enough to carry my football, so I had about as much use for it as I had for that creepy blue-eyed, hair-plugged babydoll.
Almost every year, one of my standard childhood holiday gifts was being allowed to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s at my grandparents’ house. For a full week I didn’t have to compete with my five siblings, and would revel in the one-on-one attention my grandmother and grandfather would shower upon me. Heaven!
They lived in a very Mayberry-esque little village called Columbiana, a tiny town that, at the time, had about ten churches and one bar. (That’s changed, thank God.) To pass the time during those winter days of my youth I would bundle up, pull on my tan mittens with the knit backing and leather palms and then make the four-block trek to Cunningham’s Drug Store. Obviously, I wasn’t kidding about the Mayberry part. There I would read the newest Archie comic book while sipping a chocolate malt at the counter. For real. It was a simpler, child predator-free time.
As I hit junior high and hormones started to take over, I recall one of those weeklong Christmas visits when my grandmother announed one night we were going out for dinner. Dutifully, I took a bath, got dressed, shook up my grandfather’s aersol can of Barbesol, smeared the foam on my face, and shaved it off with his Remington retractable razor. Then I poured some of his new Brut aftershave into my little palms and splashed it on my face in manly fashion as I had seen him do bundreds of times.
Unlike him, however, I immediately emitted a girly scream that no doubt the Cunninghams could hear those four blocks away. That was the night I realized there were limitation to my burgeonng butch persona.
My memory mostly fades when trying to recollect Christmas presents I received past junior high, except for the Christmas I was was 20 when I received an engagement ring from my husband-to-be. We all know how that story worked out. Maybe if my mother had whipped out that vintage black-and-white baby butch snapshot the night I received that ring, we could have all been saved a lot of time and trouble.
Fast forward to today, when most of my gift giving has turned to the more practical: gift cards, or for those closest to me, a jar of my traditional, homemade roasted spiced pecans.
But hands down, the best gift I receive is simply spending time with family, dear friends and family of choice. That sense of love, togetherness and belonging far outshines any new football or Super Duper Blooper Gun.
And the smell of spiced pecans roasting on a cold day beats the hell out of the smell of Brut.