Wednesday, December 07, 2005

this weekend's essay: holiday cheer (a remix)

what's your favorite chrismahanakwanzakah memory?
(portions of which appeared on my blog a while ago.)

in general, i miss being a kid at christmas.

the most excited i ever got about buying someone a christmas gift was when i was maybe six years old. i cannot describe the feelings i had then. sort of like the way i can't remember how my "happy smurfday" cake tasted, but if i had it again, i'd know. i think i'd gotten some money from my pops for good grades or something--A's were worth about 3 dollars a piece back then. i had gone through the walgreens ad, and found what i wanted to get everyone on my list. so my mom took me to the walgreens in southgate plaza. i didn't want my mother to see what i was getting her, so she led me to a really pretty black lady in the cosmetics section, and asked her to help me on my behalf; just like now, back then i would not talk to strangers on my own volition. anyway, i showed this woman what i wanted to get my moms. it was this small, white nail dryer. after you polished your nails, you took your fingers and pressed this button, and semi-hot air blew on your nails from some little contraption above. it coudn't have cost more than 10 dollars, but i swear it's the greatest gift i ever bought anyone. honestly, i cannot immediately recall anything else i've ever bought anyone in the chrismases since.

my mother has a way of showing excitement and appreciation for damn near anything. and her reaction to my gift left me thoroughly satisfied. at that moment, i think i knew that it always better to give... i don't know why this is one of my two most vivid christmas memories. i'm sure (i hope, at least) that i've bought much better gifts for my mother since. but there's just something about that nail dryer that's stayed with me all this time. thing is, that nail dryer lasted for quite a while, and through the years, whenever i saw my mom using it, i'd smile.

perhaps it really is the thought that counts. whenever anyone wants to know my favorite holiday memory, or the best christmas gift i've ever received, i tell them the following story. the christmas after my parents got divorced, my mom was broke, with two little kids to make happy. my father, for whatever reason, was very much dedicated to making my mother suffer in many ways. unfortunately, the ways he decided to make her pay (refusing to pay support, not calling, not taking advantage of his visitation rights, etc.) really only hurt janelle and me. with overtime and such, his factory job left him with a lot more dough than my mom, who for a while had gone part-time to take care of us. so by christmas eve, my mother had absolutely no leftover dough, and two young girls fully believing that the great white patriarch santa fuckin' claus would descend from the north pole and hook us up with the freshest toys featured in the latter half of the jc penney catalog. (what you know about finding out all the kids' toys and shit were on the other side of the yellow pages in the middle?) swallowing her pride--she would later tell me-- she borrowed 100 bucks from my great grandparents, and she and her best friend, stephanie went shopping for us. getting gifts that would make up the greatest christmas ever.

i got my first (and only) record player that year--a black emerson that i thought was the shit. i played billy ocean, cherelle, jeffrey osborne, janet jackson, and al jarreau on that joker. i tried to scratch records and shit on that joint. i recorded myself rappin with the tape deck. and all the shit my dad bought that year--perhaps to show up my mom--like the barbie dreamhouse, sat untouched in my damn basement for years.

when i think about it, all the lite brites, teddy ruxpins, crickets, and cabbage patch kids, don't match up to a cheap record player, a checker board, and a grocery cart with plastic food. i hold that memory really close to me. just a couple years later, my mother would marry my stepfather, and our family dynamic would again change. other than brief moments when my stepdad would go out of town, it's the only memory of it just being my mom, janelle, and me. they were hard, scary, and uncertain, but i miss those days. it's my huck and jim on the river, my idyllic moment.

so, uh, got any fave chrismahanakwanzakah memories?

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up I never really experienced a decent Christmas because we were ALWAYS poor and my mother never could afford us gifts. I do remeber one year getting a little am/fm walkman from my grandfather and I listened to it til the batteries died and when I realized I would never get batteries to replace the dead ones I took it apart. After that day I took apart everything, the watch my father got me for my birthday and most of all my brother's remote control car, I am still feeling the ass whoopin' from that experience. Christmas never really meant much to me until my first niece was born and that was just 5 years ago. Maybe once I have a basketball team of my own Christmas may have a different meaning for me or at least a more enjoyable one.

Merry Christmas


7/12/05 19:40  
Blogger Shelley said...

In my church youth group when I was a kid, one of the things we did was go to the houses of people who couldn't really get out (usually elderly people) and rake their leaves for them. I always liked raking leaves, and loved the "bonus" feeling of doing it for someone else. One year, when my sister was about seven, which would have made me about ten, I was doing this leaf-raking gig when I saw the shell of an old dollhouse leaning up against a shed in a backyard. It was weather-damaged, but still, to my ten year old eyes, looked way too good to be trash. And winter was coming! So I marched myself up to the door of the house (NOT the house we were raking at, I think it was the next one down) and asked them if I could have it. Of course they said yes, and when I came home and told my dad about it I KNEW that he would help me fix it up for my sister.

I never cared a fig for dolls, although I liked the little minature furniture and food and stuff that went with dollhouses, but my sister was a complete doll nut. For however many weeks were left until Christmas, my dad and I spent all our spare time in his basement workshop working on that dollhouse. We hung an old pink sheet over the window in the workshop door and my sister was STRICTLY forbidden to go anywhere near our top secret project. We changed the floorplan, hinged the roof to make the third floor accessible, crafted tiny shutters, put on a fresh coat of paint, built some stairs... it was so awesome! It was the biggest present anyone in my family ever got, so big we had to put it in the front hallway instead of under the tree, and I don't even remember what my sister's reaction was but I was so proud and happy to be part of the team that made it happen.

Thanks for the excuse to think about that.

7/12/05 21:47  
Blogger Phoenix said...

*shelley-Good lawd!! how sweet a story! i want to be your sister!

8/12/05 14:19  
Blogger summer m. said...

when i dream of fairytales i think of me and shelley...

you are the greatest big sister ever.

like trading spaces christmas present edition.

8/12/05 14:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In approx. 1985 I collected a big garbage bag of styrofoam peanuts and kept it hidden in my closet. On Christmas morning (65 degrees and sunny ATL) I told my parents that I had a big surprise for them and they had to close their eyes. So, there they were: eyes closed, sitting all comfy on the floor by the tree. I ran to my room, grabbed the bag of styrofoam nuggets, came out and dumped it over their heads shouting the "white christmas" song.I thought I was so charming and magical. I recently found out that they were not as charmed as they should (clearly) have been ,but they faked it well.

This is the kind of thing that can happen in the south. To parents of an only child.

Maybe you had to be there.


9/12/05 12:08  
Blogger mwilli said...

well being an only child, i have had some pretty awesome x-mases, but the one that stands out is one where i was 7 and my mom's new boyfriend was trying to buy my love and i woke up christmas morning and basically had toys r us under my tree.

9/12/05 14:03  
Blogger Alii said...

best christmas gift i ever got was a camera.

but i also like socks, underwear and five dollar bills from my sunday school teacher..

9/12/05 15:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whenever I think of Christmas I always think of the great Christmas parties my parents would throw for the extended family. Every year my family would get together, eat a lot of food; drink a lot of egg nog; and those that were old enough would get drunk as hell.
One year my one cousin got so toasted my parents didn't want her to walk home alone, so they tried to get her to stay. She refused, but she let them call her a cab.
At the time we lived atop a steep hill dotted with trees and the cab had to wait at the road below. So when the cab came, my cousin ran outside to the edge of the hill, slipped on the hard snow, and rolled down a good fifty-feet of hillside. My mom ran after her and helped her to her feet any to have the cabdriver refuse to take her. "HE'S too drunk!" he yelled. Guess her jerry curl made him mistake her for a man.

9/12/05 16:49  
Blogger Kilimanjaro: High and Lo said...

^^ahh, jheri curl..."too cool for school" circa '82

10/12/05 04:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shut the hell up. i am all about billy ocean, al jarreau, anita baker, luther and levert. and i sang over all my mothers tapes. yeah.. that emerson was the shit.

lil toilet paper before i got hip to the tape over the tape box holes that were meant to make it impossible to record over copy written stuff.

that what i get my mother for christmas now.. i am forever replacing the music i ruined.

smiles.. for bringing it back.

13/12/05 21:30  

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