Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Ghost of Christmases Past

The first Christmas present that I can remember was a large, walking doll with red hair that I named "Rita." She was almost as big as I was and when you held the doll's hand she could "walk" with you. Those were the Christmases above the barbershop and down the street from the Methodist Church - the Christmases of the children's party in the church's activity room, the Christmases of sitting on Santa's lap and believing.

I think those Christmases ended when we moved to the little house on Lyon Avenue. I was eight and that was when I became more aware of my father's drinking - of his coming home late, not that he had worked late at the barbershop, but he came home late after stopping at Denny's Tavern for a drink or two or three. Mom would wait supper for Dad; Pattie would take her supper into "her", actually our, room to eat. But I would wait for Dad - most of the time. These were the Christmases that I remember Dad (he hadn't become "Pop" yet - our Pop, Dad's father, was still alive) - I remember Dad sitting on the sofa in his underwear, visibly hung-over and saying, "Merry goddamn Christmas." The presents had progressed from the Rita doll to a chemistry set, then a microscope, a typewriter and finally a TV set for both Pattie and me - that was the set - a portable black and white - that played President Kennedy's funeral and Ed Sullivan's introduction of the Beatles.

Then came the Christmases when I took a long bus trip from Easton, PA to Baltimore so I could spend the holiday with my family and not alone in the nurses residence at the nursing school.

The first Christmas with Heather's father was bittersweat - we had no money, but he did surprise me with a tree. The next year we had Heather - that may have been the best Christmas. The worse one was the Christmas Eve when her father beat me - that was when I decided on divorce, but I had to wait for five years - until I had a salary good enought to support Heather and me - he never paid child support and for many Christmases, I bought gifts for him to give her.

Another good Christmas was the one I had with Rich - I only had one. He loved me so much and it showed - it was heaven. A wonderful Christmas.

I loved the ones with Mark - I felt as if I had brought him into my family. But those have also ended.

Christmases Past - never really were as good - or as bad - as our memories. They just were.


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