A Christmas Memoir

Fresh greenery scents the mantel,
chocolate bakes in the oven, and
rich, buttery cookies cool on racks
announcing the arrival of Christmas holidays.

Hard candies – peppermint sticks, pink ones filled with raspberry,
pale green shells stuffed with chocolate, cinnamon, and
fruit-flavored candies brim a sparkling cut-glass jars
hidden on uppermost shelf,
out of reach to this four-year-old’s tiny fingers.

Hah!
I know how to pull the stool to
the cabinet, climb on the counter,
reach in to snitch a candy or
two or three while
Momma naps.

Fruitcake from Papa’s bakery
arrives in a tin. I listen for the first clink
of the lid hitting the
kitchen table and filch
the first paper-thin
slice. Better ones, soaked in
brandy, await at Nana’s house.

Seven days before Christmas,
Momma reads The Littlest Angel,
my favorite Christmas story.
I am that little angel.

I sing off-key in the Sunday-
school pageant rehearsals. I
cause a disturbance with
my exuberant songs. Given two
lines to say instead,
I say them flawlessly.

Sprigs of holly,
Accented with red velvet ribbons that
Match the berries cover the mantel.
Stockings, sewn by my Nana, wait
To be filled by Santa with tangerines,
oranges, and those familiar hard candies,
will hang suspended on a hook over the
fireplace on Christmas morning.

Boughs of mistletoe, tied with
satin ribbons tied to boughs of mistletoe,
sway in doorways. Electric candles
stand at attention in frosty windows.

On Christmas Eve,
before bedtime rituals,
hot chocolate and cookies are
put out in wait for Santa when he arrives to
decorate the tree and put out presents, you know.

Afterwards, fresh from my bath and
wrapped in a silk nightgown with pink rosebuds and
quilted-pink-satin robe, I listen to Momma read
“T’was the Night Before Christmas.”
Instead of sugarplums,
I have visions of dolls dancing in my head.
She sings “Silent Night” as a lullaby.

Christmas morning,
must eat breakfast before we
can see what Santa brought us
and open our packages. Christmas
dinner is always at Nana and Papa’s house.

Christmas morning, we must eat breakfast
Before we can see what Santa brought,
And open packages.
After presents,
Momma dresses me in my
Wine-colored velvet dress with
A braided belt of wine and gold ribbon.
I am a princess with matching socks and
Patent-leather Mary Janes.

Christmas dinner is always at
Nana and Papa’s house. When we arrive,
Aromas of turkey and dressing permeate
the house. Suddenly, I’m hungry,

not so hungry that I forget to
envy my cousin Weezie’s presents. She
is eight months older, and we are often
treated like twins when it comes to
Christmas gifts from our maternal grandmother.

Adults—grandparents, two daughters with husbands—
sit at the heavy round mahogany pedestal
table dressed in white damask.
Sterling clinks against bone china as
food is served and eaten.

Tinkles of crystal punctuate murmurs of conversation. We
children, all under six,
eat on sunroom’s card table,
adjacent to dining room,
close enough to be observed and
far enough away to feel grown up.

Today, I smell holiday greenery
mixed with aromas of turkey and dressing
floating from Nana’s kitchen. I
taste the red jellied cranberry sauce I
spread on a buttered roll. And,
I hear laughter from the other room.

I remember what it feels like to
sit on a book and to
wipe my fingers on a damask napkin.
I am four again.

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