Christmas – in November?
I remember – back in 2003-4 when my son was in the Sand. Way back then (it’s a lifetime ago!) the mail to Iraq was taking 4 – 6 weeks to arrive, even sent Priority. So.. In November, right after his birthday, I started shopping. I didn’t get much for him, just the underwear I was sure he needed (underwear in your stocking is a tradition too… don’t ask…) , and socks, and candy. I baked cookies – his great grandmother’s Butterblatzen, my shortbread, macaroons – before Thanksgiving. We have schedules in my family – all Christmas baking is done in December.. my mother is German and schedules are her lifeblood! Christmas is HUGE – big trees with tons of white little lights, ornaments that we inherited, or he made in school or scouts.. opening presents on Christmas Eve, and the stockings on Christmas Day.
Then I remembered.
Before he enlisted, his dad and I, with his help and many others, built our own house, a dome house and it took a long time, with all of us working regular jobs and doing it at night and weekends. The first Christmas on the property – we were in a terrible trailer and had no room for anything at all, much less a big tree. So we found a tiny table top fake tree, little ornaments and popped popcorn to swag it in (and feed the mice that were having a field day in there too!). And we laughed, and celebrated and joy filled that trailer. The second Christmas, we were living in the house, with just a few rooms done – and we found that little tree, put it under the rolling scaffolding in the main room and decorated it. The lights – well that year, they draped the scaffolding! And it was a great Christmas!
and I remembered.
The next few – he was either living on his own, but came to our house for Christmas, with the latest girlfriend – or the wonderful one when they got leave from Basic and he came, all skinny and polite and NEAT – The tree that year was huge, a Fraser Fir that smelled like the holiday, the banisters were draped in lights, the house smelled of goose and pie and there was such joy in the house.
The year he was deployed, his dad was deployed, and I couldn’t face Christmas at all. But I wanted him to have it – out in the cold damp desert. So I found the little tree, and the little ornaments and even some “lights” that looked real, but didn’t need to be plugged in. I decorated it, and packed it oh so carefully. and mailed it in November. He told me later that he loved it, the platoon he was with was camping in one of Saddams family palaces, and they set up that little tree and everyone opened packages from home. My husband was in Bosnia, they had a great tree on their base, and food and packages from home. I couldn’t do it, just couldn’t. I had great friends who invited me for the day, which was sweet. And all of us tried to remember those other Christmases, the ones we were together, when the kid was little and woke us up at 5 to open the presents from Santa, when he was older and we sat in our PJs all day and watched goofy movies while the house smelled of goose with stuffing and mincemeat pies…
This year – the husband is packing for deployment, I’m baking for other troops who aren’t home, and my son, daughter in law and our beautiful, smart, sassy and perfect granddaughter are out West where they live. And I’ll remember that little boy with the footy jamies, racing to see what’s in the package – sitting with the new toy in the living room and grinning over the chocolate Santa for breakfast. and I’ll remember..