Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Very Christopher Christmas

Every family has their own unique holiday traditions, whether they are born out of local custom or just individual quirkiness. Mine was no different. My younger brother's birthday was on Christmas Eve and that only added to our, um, traditions.

I am the middle of three children, the only girl. We grew up in the newly burgeoning suburbs that was Long Island in the 50s and 60s. I know many of you can relate. It was an era of Vietnam, the Beatles, Woodstock and elephant bells. During the Christmas season, we all watched 'Miracle on 34th Street', 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'. We thought it was funny to do the dance the Peanut characters did when they are supposed to be rehearsing for the school pageant.

As I mentioned, my younger brother Christopher was born on Christmas Eve. I was seven that year, my older brother David was nine. I remember it well. My mother, all 5-foot-one-98-pounds of her, was pretty much bursting at the seams. She came into my room in the late afternoon to say she and my dad were going to the hospital to have the baby and that Grandma was going to take care of us until dad came home. Later that evening, the call came that, indeed, our baby brother had been born.

My excitement at being a big sister was mixed with a large dose of regular Christmas excitement. I still believed Santa was coming down our chimney later that evening and I wanted to let him know about our extra-special news. So I secretly took my Thumbelina doll, which looked and moved just like a REAL BABY when you turned the big pink knob on her back, and, carefully swaddling her, laid her on the corner of the couch in the living room right next to the tree. David and I were put to bed, where visions of Lionel trains and go-carts danced in our heads.

Now, David had his own Christmas tradition. Every year, late in the night after 'Santa' had already come and gone, he would get up, sneak into the living room and peruse the bootie. This night was no different. He tiptoed into the room and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark, scanning for packages with his name on them. Suddenly, a slight movement caught his eye on the couch. Moving closer, he could see it was a baby. It must be HIS NEW BABY BROTHER!, sleeping peacefully there. He left for his bedroom quickly so as not to wake the napping infant.

Next morning, at the crack of dawn, we ran to wake dad and grandma and hurried into the living room for the morning's festivities. Everyone was in a great mood. David said, happily, "I can't wait to sit on the couch and hold the new baby!" My dad looked confused. "David, the baby is still at the hospital with mom. They won't be home for five more days." "Then who is THAT?!", David asked, now much perplexed as he pointed to the bundle on the couch. I burst out laughing. "That's MY THUMBELINA DOLL, stupid!", I roared, delighted to one-up my usually crafty brother. "I wanted Santa to see her." David's cheeks turned red. "I didn't get to look at my presents because of your stinky DOLL?", he wailed. I moved out of range. "Come on, you two," dad said sternly. "Stop fighting and open your presents."

We did not need to be told twice. David got a new train engine and the deluxe two-lever control that allowed you to send the trains forward and backward. I got Gaylord, the big toy bassett hound complete with cardboard dog house. Grandma called us into the kitchen where we had sweet buns and grapefruit halves and the homemade Christmas cookies mom had left for us.

Five days later, the Plymouth pulled into the driveway and my once-again slim mother climbed out with baby Christopher in her arms. We ran out to greet them and spent the rest of the day taking turned holding our new brother and listening delightedly to his birth story. Grandma stayed on for an extra week to help out.

It was the best Christmas ever.

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