Truly. At least, if my memories are anything to go by.
I’m 47 and still sharp as a tack, or so I tell myself. My memories of specific Christmas presents consist of exactly two items:
- Hoppity Hops.
- A guitar
So as I was saying, my overall Christmas memory blur exists. It includes stockings hung by the chimney with care. The only stocking things I remember are candy canes filled with M&Ms, gold chocolate coins, and Lifesavers story books—all things I try to find for my kids. (This year I struck out on the M&M candy canes—although I long ago started going for the lower-cost generic alternative—and the Lifesavers story books, for which there is no substitute. Sorry kids. You read it here first. Surprise!)
Other things in the blur: Christmas cookies, especially the buttery-good spritz ones. My mom made a huge assortment of cookies, aiming for artful variety in flavor, appearance and texture. Pie: pumpkin, apple, chocolate. Big traditional meal. Decorations. Lights. Specific ornaments, some of which I now have since I did the bulk of sorting out when my folks downsized to assisted living (so if you’re one of my five siblings and you’re wondering where the two elves went that used to sit on the tree branches, now you know).
But gifts in the memory bank? Two. With year after year of careful selection, Mom counting gifts to make sure my younger sister and I received the exact same number (I used to joke that she would wrap mittens in separate boxes if she had to, to make it come out even), all that anticipation—two.
The Hoppity-Hop is an easy one to remember for a couple of reasons. One is that I woke up that Christmas morning with my first-ever stiff neck. We’re talking seriously stiff, can’t-climb-out-of-bed-by-yourself stiff, cry-when-you-try-to-move-anyway stiff. My older sister, who’s ten years older than I am, had to help me out of bed.
The house we grew up in had a curving staircase. The upper part was walled in, the lower part curved down to the main entrance. Once you got past the corner with the funny steps shaped like pieces of pie, you could look into the living room where the tree stood, surrounded by Santa’s generosity.
My older sister held me by the shoulders as I walked down the stairs, saying repeatedly to my younger sister, “Now don’t SAY anything when you see the tree. Don’t SAY anything.” She knew what sat there and she didn’t want me to turn my head abruptly.
We got around the corner. Little Sister screamed, “Hoppity-Hops!” and I started to turn my head so I screamed for joy and pain as Older Sister quickly whipped my whole body around so I could look at the tree. Yep, Hoppity-Hops! THE gift that year and a ton o’ fun—not that I could bounce on it until after my stiff neck cleared up.
It was a ton o’ fun, that is, until the following summer when one of my older brothers—who was probably about 17 at the time—went bounding across the lawn on MY Hoppity-Hop, leaping higher and higher, laughing joyously, rediscovering the freedom of childhood…. Right up until my Hoppity-Hop popped.
The guitar I remember because my clever gift-giving mom wrapped an ordinary box—the size that you secretly think is a little disappointing because it probably holds a hat and scarf set—full of tissue. As I sorted my way through the tissue, I wondered what in heck this gift was—heck, where in heck this gift was.
I finally found a little piece of paper. As I looked at it, my sharp-as-a-tack brain slowly registered that I was looking at a cut-out picture of a guitar. The meaning of it dawned on me just as my mom sneaked back into the living room with the real thing behind her back.
I’d been asking for a guitar (Hoppity-Hop-popping Older Brother played the guitar) and I was so excited to get it. I took lessons for a year, maybe more; never got as good as Older Brother; finally decided I’d keep on with piano but not guitar. I don’t know where it ended up; I kept it around for years, thinking I’d play it and every once in a while reconfirming the fact that I no longer had any finger calluses.
So with all the selecting and wrapping and bill-paying, just know that you’re mostly creating a happy blur. Which is nothing to sneeze at, mind you.