Christmas always meant two things in the Summersâ€™ household: Midnight Mass and presents.
When I was very little I used to think the presents were a prize for sitting through the interminable tri-lingual service (yup, an entire mass from beginning to end, delivered by three priests, in turn in English, French and Spanish). Catholic services are notoriously aerobic. In order, thereâ€™s the walk to the pew, the squat and bow before being seated, standing to welcome the celebrant to the altar, sitting, standing, kneeling, sitting, standing, line forming, walking, bowing, kneeling, sitting, standing, walking out and the handshake at the end. (A friend once wondered aloud how many Weight Watcherâ€™s exercise points she could award herself for all the effort. We decided four minus one for the body of Christ at the end.) But Christmas mass was different, somewhere after the English homily, I would put my head on my momâ€™s shoulder and sleep until Christmas morning.
To this day Iâ€™m not entirely sure how I got out of my church dress and shoes, because I was always in feeted pajamas by morning. (I remember waking up once as she put me in my bed and asking if it was still Christmas, when she said yes, I asked if I could have my presents and she said Santa just got out of church too and hadnâ€™t delivered them yet.)
Since it was just the two of us, there wasnâ€™t a big decorated tree with gifts by the fireplace or anything. But when I woke up on Christmas morning, tickled awake by the smell of bacon and the sound of carols, my whole bed would be covered with presents from neck to toe â€“ the biggest box usually perched on my chest and smaller ones tucked beside my head, so they wouldnâ€™t tumble off when I sat up. Tearing and opening commenced immediately and did not stop until I could sit up. Atari 2600, Operation, Thundercats action figures â€“ all left on my bed for me after Santa got out of church. I canâ€™t remember the last year that I was buried in presents for Christmas, but this year came closest to replicating that sense of wonder about what Santa had dropped off.
I received lots of gifts from readers, relatives, friends and myself via Amazon and Overstock.com â€“ all shrouded in impenetrable brown cardboard until I pried them open on Christmas morning.
Esther sent me the Garden State soundtrack everyone has been raving about. Karol sent me the Dido CD I have been meaning to get for two years and a Beatles CD I didnâ€™t ask for (Well, I did ask for a Beatles CD mind you, she just judged that one, found it wanting and got me a different one.) Jake, the patron saint of Alarming News, got me two seasons of Futurama (why they cancelled that show, but brought back freaking Family Guy twice, Iâ€™ll never know.) My best friend got me both seasons of Alias and two seasons of the Simpsons, which I have been watching non-stop on my brand new flatscreen/DVD TV (which has a built in alarm to turn itself on in the morning!) I got the complete set of Lemony Snicket books, Jon Stewartâ€™s America, a bunch of video games, and three people completed the free ipod offer! (Just need two moreâ€¦)
I want to thank all those people for making this the most Christmasy-Christmas in my adult life and thank everyone for continuing to read and comment on Clareified, without you all I would be ranting out loud in the streets and I promised the N.Y.P.D. that I wouldn’t do that anymore.
Anyone who says Christmas has become too commercial has never seen the look on a childâ€™s face as she tears open a lone box placed at the foot of her bed to find an X-box inside.
Time to Dance Dance Revolution.