I believe in Magic. I believe in Miracles. I believe in Santa Clause. Don’t even try to tell me there is no such thing as Santa! If you do, I will clamp my hands over my ears and start singing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” ala Andy William’s, at the top of my lungs. I believe in the magic of Christmas.
I am one of “those people” who starts the Christmas countdown months early. Truth be told, I start the count down on December 26th! I get so excited about Christmas – the music, the decorations, the jolliness, the energy, and the spirit! I hunker down on the couch and watch the same Christmas movies year after year. I find myself hoping Clarence gets his wings, feeling sad for Rudolph when he feels like an outcast, wishing Ralphie would get his official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air
rifle for Christmas and tearing up every time Doris and Susan finally realized that they do believe! I know I inherited my Christmas spirit from my family. I remember sitting and watching these movies with my dad as a child. I remember the first time we watched Miracle on 34th Street. I instantly decided that was my favorite holiday movie and that I would never stop believing. I remember my dad loving It’s a Wonderful Life. As a child I liked the movie, but I didn’t get the beauty of it until I was older. In addition to our yearly viewing of these gems, my family had (and still has) many holiday traditions. The day after Thanksgiving we would go out and find the largest Christmas tree that would fit in our living room (my mom would have preferred a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, but dad and us 5 kids won out year after year). My dad was in charge of stringing the lights. He was meticulous as he placed the small twinkle lights toward the center and bigger ceramic bulbs and bubble lights on the branches (he did let us help untangle the lights though!) Elvis crooned Blue Christmas on the stereo as the 5 Jeske kids put the ornaments on the tree. We would tell stories about each ornament. We would talk about making them in art classes or buying them in Frankenmuth or receiving them as gifts. Between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas eve there was a lot of shopping, baking, viewing Christmas movies, laughing and hoping we were all on the “nice list.”
On Christmas eve the rituals continued. In the evening we all piled into our van and drove around town looking at Christmas lights. Michigan winters couldn’t keep us from driving through snowy neighborhoods looking for the houses with the best lights. Before the age of GPS we got turned around more than a couple times searching for our favorite houses. After a few years we knew which houses to hit. And year after year we stopped in a special spot in a very Christmas-y cul-de-sac full of festive houses and we each opened a present. We would then go home and climb upstairs and go to sleep…in the same room. For a while there were 3 of us under the age of 9 and we could all fit into a queen size bed. When the 4th and then 5th Jeske were born we had to start dragging mattresses into the same room. Each Christmas eve we piled into the same room to dream of sugar plums. We would whisper and speculate about what we would open the next morning. There was always a small Christmas tree in our room and each year Santa would bring our stockings up and they would be waiting for us under the tree in the morning! One of us would spring awake at 5 or 6am and we would creep downstairs and gasp at all of the presents. We would go through our stockings and then run upstairs and wake mom and dad. We would eat cinnamon rolls, drink slush (a family drink, that I now make with vodka for holiday parties) and in a few hours the living room was littered with wrapping paper, clothes and Barbie accessories.
I moved away from home over a decade ago. For a long time I made it home every Christmas. The last Christmas my siblings and I all slept in the same room was in 2004. The 5 of us, ranged in age from 14-28 that year. There was lots of giggling and talking about gifts (and also talk of careers and partners and life in general). I missed my first Jeske family Christmas in 2005. I was in Mexico and cried into a pay phone as I wished my family a merry Christmas. I called them on that same trip and cried for joy as I told
them that my (now) husband had proposed. From that year on we started taking turns spending one Christmas with my family and then next with his and the next with mine and so on. When we go to Michigan a lot of the same traditions continue. We have slush and cookies and still wake up way too early to open gifts. One year my dad rented a limo bus and my parents, us 5 kids, 2 partners and 1 grandchild were driven around the city to look at lights (and we stopped at our traditional spot to open up our Christmas Eve present). In between, we spend the holiday with my husband’s family enjoying their rituals. My husband and I have created a few of our own too. I’ve inherited my dad’s stubbornness and usually insist on stringing the lights around the tree all by myself. I also tell my husband the story of EVERY single ornament as we decorate the tree. We open one gift on Christmas eve and the rest the next morning. We have reserved Christmas morning for just the two of us. We sleep in. We’ve traded cinnamon rolls and slush for stuffed French toast and mimosas. And every year, without fail I get teary
at least twice before Christmas arrives. Even though I’ve seen them each over 20 times I find myself moved by Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. Truth be told I think I start crying because of the story, the sentiment, the sentimentality…and then I shed a few tears for the ghosts of Christmas past and those Christmas eves spent giggling with my siblings and those mornings spent full of wonder and gratitude.
Julie is a Couples-Counselor in Portland, Oregon.
Check out Julie’s blog, updated monthly, here: www.juliejeske.com/blog