Anne Eller offers this week’s Advent reflections as she shares her memories of Christmas when she was a child and her hopes for Christmas at this stage in her life.
As I grew older, I became aware that Santa Claus was a product of my parent’s generosity. I began to understand that many children did not receive the kinds of presents from Santa that I did. I didn’t think I had been more “good” than other children, and I didn’t think that Santa was so biased. My parents wouldn’t relent to the fact that their children were all getting older and they continued to supposedly keep the secret. Trying to pry the truth from them, the year I was thirteen I remarked that I didn’t know how they had put all the presents in the car to take to my grandparents’ house without our knowing it. But they still wouldn’t fess up. I wish that my parents had been able to have a conversation with me about the underlying meaning of Christmas—beyond the baby Jesus and Santa Claus, which I already knew about.
My conscious mind wants to conjure only magical memories when I think of Christmases past. But, as I continue to remember more deeply, the shadow side of Christmas begins to show. As with all things, the light brings shadow, and one does not manifest without the other.
There was the Christmas that Dad hurt his back after the children had all gone to bed, as he was retrieving a hidden bicycle so Santa could leave it before the following morning. He was in the bed most of Christmas Day, wrenching in pain. There was the year I got in trouble, because I snuck into the living room to look at the Christmas presents, which were never wrapped, and came back excitedly to tell my sister what was there—I got a Candy Fashion doll and she got a Susie Smart! It was against the rules for us to go into the living room before Mom and Dad got up. I can’t remember how they found out or the consequences, only that I was in trouble and I felt bad. Then there was the underlying anxiety at my grandparents’ house, about whether my uncle suffering from alcoholism would show his worst face that year. And if I allow myself to recall it, there was an underlying strain on my parents’ faces and Mom was often in a bad mood on Christmas Day. Now I totally understand.
Ann’s memories will continue tomorrow…
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