December 24, 2009

A Christmas Star

Oh, there are good memories.

Certainly, the year my two-year old sister woke early and tore the wrapping from every gift stands out. My mother remembers it well, too – and all too well.  It was the Christmas of the blanket thank-you: we will always treasure whatever it is you gave us.

From various Christmases, there are others:

  • My foodie/fashionista sister, her Easy Bake Oven and her plastic wigs – blond, red, and battleship grey.
  • My brother, his Rubber Soul album and his please drop dead expression in every photo.
  • My youngest sister, her pre-Christmas separate stash of wrapped presents and her post-Christmas neat arrangement of toys and games
  • My grandparents, and my feverish anticipation of their arrival for dinner.
  • My mother, her sweat-inducing labour in cooking dinner for at least eight people – sometimes more.
  • The card table on which kids fought and ate.
  • The rum-induced light in my father’s eye that only lasted so long.
  • My brother outside the window with a freshly cut Christmas tree, and my mother – from the inside – directing him to turn it around slowly so that she could see it from every angle. Also, the look of complete boredom on my brother’s face.
  • Days of the week underpants.
  • The first doll I really loved: a boy doll dressed in short black pants and a red vest, but  – oddly – wearing little girly Mary-Janes with white ankle socks.
  • First outfit I really loved: mini-skirt with matching Nehru collar jacket.
  • Ribbon candy that was never eaten.
  • Striped hard candy that was never eaten.
  • Barley candy (whatever that was) on sticks, gold or red, shaped like camels and other unusual things – never eaten.

The list is long, too long to list. But I add this one more, the best and my favourite Christmas memory: lifting my three year old sister, Ellen, perching her on my nine year old hip and pointing out the window to what I now know was a bright planet, Venus or Jupiter. Then, I  believed that it was something else and whispered “Look, Ellen. It’s the Star in the East”.

The Wise Men were astrologers and astronomers, and certainly would have studied the skies for the sake of time, navigation and omens. The Star of Bethlehem was probably an astronomical event of planets and stars converging in such a way that they created a very bright object in the sky. The myth-making around the birth of Christ, which paradoxically began well after the death of Christ, transformed this star into a powerful symbol of awe and redemption. For some, it’s a wistful notion, and that notion a beacon on which hopes and wishes are pinned.

My sister turned 50 last month, and went to Paris to celebrate her birthday. She brought back ribbons, the like I have never before seen, deep reds and deeper greens. They were purchased specifically to decorate the Christmas table, to lay over a white linen cloth. She loves Christmas, does our Ellen. She makes Christmas beautiful and soulful, even for non-believers like me. Food, wine, lots of laughter and easy affection. Because we are only recently in close proximity to each other, this year I have the same same joyful anticipation that was reserved for my grandparent’s Christmas day arrival.

Ellen has no memory of being held up to see the star that shone so on that Christmas morning. But I do, and as I anticipate the next few days with her and her husband, I realize that the star on which I pin my secular Christmas dreams was not in the sky that morning, but sitting on my hip – one small finger in her mouth and a tiny arm draped around the back of my neck.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good star.


One Response to “A Christmas Star”
  1. Jane Greening

    Beautiful post, Susan. You brought the smells and sights of your childhood Christmases to life. Thank you for that.