It’s easy for that heart fluttering, Santa spying, Christmas light adorned spirit of the holidays to get lost the older you get. For one, Santa doesn’t bring gifts to grown-ups. And the older you get the more involved you are in the actual planning of Christmas. Then there’s the shopping, and ultimately you’re subjected to the “According to my bank account, everyone is getting some office supplies I stole from work for Christmas” type of stress. Especially when you’re an unmarried, childless, and completely single 20-something. Great for sitcoms, not so much for Christmas. So how does a completely unattached, nearly 25 year old woman get into the spirit of Christmas? She cranks up the Nat and Bing, pops open a bottle of wine, and she goes back to her roots.
In the Rizzo household, you knew Christmas was coming when it was time to make the most hideous looking Christmas cookies Santa would ever have the pleasure of eating. Why were they so hideous? As soon as the Rizzo kids, and whichever friends of ours were over that day, decided that would rather free hand with one of the thirty year old butter knives my parents have had since they first got married than use the thirty year old cookie cutters they’ve had since they first got married, the Pillsbury Dough Boy no longer wanted his wholesome name besmirched by our Christmas creations. Have you ever heard of an Abraham Lincoln Christmas cookie that doubled as a Rabi? It was just one of the many brilliant Christmas cookies that we crafted once the cookie cutters retired to display only.
Of course there was the decorating. My family has been decorating the same house the same way for pretty much as long as I can remember. Most of the ornaments are at least twelve years old, many of them twice that. But year after year the tree went up, my brother, sister, and I would hang up all the ornaments that have our name, our birth year, or anything that could possibly have anything to do with us, while my mother would hang the pretty ornaments like the ballet slippers and the caroling birds. My father, would string the lights then make himself as scarce as possible until it’s time to put the angel on top. In twenty five years, our Christmas tree has endured three kids, three different dogs, and an old confused cat. Decorating the tree and making ridiculous cookies were just the start of the Christmas magic.
What really made Christmas magical was Christmas Eve. The five of us would pile into the minivan and drive to visit my mother’s side of the family. Now when you’re seven the excitement of going to my mother’s aunt’s house had very little to do with mingling with family we only saw once a year and eating delicious food. No, when you’re seven the excitement came when dinner began wrapping up and everyone would head downstairs because it was time to sing. We had to sing. How else was Santa going to hear us and know where we were to visit? You’d think after years of never being able to remember the words to “Frosty the Snowman” someone would have printed them out. It didn’t matter though. No matter how off key or incorrect the words were, eventually we’d hear the soft sound of bells jingling on the other side of the door. Every year Santa brought presents, and each kid would anxiously wait for him to call their name to get a present. Once everybody had their presents and the floor was more torn up wrapping paper than carpet it was time to pack everybody and go home. But not before stopping to see the Christmas lights at Top of the Hill Apartments.
This will be my first Christmas going back to visit my family since I hit the millennial milestone of moving out of my parents’ house back in August. While we no longer gather random friends to make terrible Christmas cookies or sing songs until Santa walks through the door, these traditions have built my foundation for family at holiday time. For the first time in my life, I think I’ve truly listened to “I’ll be home for Christmas.”
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