The year was 1977, around August. My mother had taken all she could from her philandering husband, so she gathered up her five little girls, ranging in age from 9 months to 12 years old, packed all she could in a car and headed south to start all over.
In the time before I was even a twinkle in my father's eye, Christmas was an occasion meant for the best of everything. The best gifts, the best meals, the best family time, etc. - or so I've been told. I've heard stories from my three older sisters (those who could remember when we were a nuclear family) about sooty footprints leading from the fireplace and elaborate stories from mom and dad about their conversations with Santa while they were sleeping, and how Santa had just slipped up the chimney as the girls were stumbling to the front room to see the gifts Santa left for them.
By the time I was old enough to understand what Christmas was, it was still an awesome celebration, but not as elaborate. A lot had changed. My mom was now a single parent with 6 kids. Turns out she was one month pregnant with me when she left my father.
I have such fond memories of Christmas during those years. It was obvious that I and my youngest sister, only 17 months older than me, were the focus of the pomp and circumstance. My older sisters would hype us up with fake phone calls from Santa, fake news reports of sightings, etc. When we were worried that we didn't have a fireplace, they assured us that they'd left Santa a key so he could come in the back door. They made sure we didn't miss out on a thing.
I wonder ' when my mom was driving 15 hours with a car full of kids and all their belongings, did she ever think to herself; "How in the world am I going to stage these elaborate Christmas's on my own?" I'm sure that was the furthest thing from her mind. But she would have to reckon with that question at some point.
Now it's Christmas 1977. My mom has settled with her little girls and by this time, is noticeably pregnant with me. She wants desperately to provide a memorable Christmas for her girls, one like they had grown accustomed to, but it was impossible. She did what she could.
Most people don't remember the exact moment when they stopped believing in Santa Claus. It usually just kind of fades away as you get older. But my oldest sister can remember the exact moment. She had just turned 13 in October. When she went to bed with her younger sisters on Christmas Eve, she believed in Santa. She was awoken in the middle of night by my mom whispering, "Joy, wake up' I need you to help me put the toys out for the kids."
She initially woke up with the excitement of all kids on Christmas morning, until she was able to make out what my mom had actually said. All at once she found out that not only was Santa not real, but she was now him! And just like that ' childhood was over. She got up, and on that night, and many Christmas Eves to come, she put out the gifts for her younger siblings.
I could only imagine what Christmas was like when my mom and dad were together, but it's hard to believe that they could even hold a candle to the Christmas productions a la mom and sis.
Merry Christmas Everyone, make the most of the time with your families and friends. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY JESUS! #reason4theseason