A Baltimore Christmas

We went last weekend to the drive-thru light show sponsored at a local farm. It was tacky/wonderful. I listened this morning to the badabing Christmas song on the radio. And for our party yesterday, we had pies (that means pizza to the rest of you). My MIL Philomena bakes up a storm, and her stuff is Italian, even though she thinks the family gave up the old country a generation ago (despite the fact that all her siblings were born there). They scream and yell and kiss and hug and cry, so much so that the depressed Irish Catholic in me goes cowering into a corner for some solitude until the storm has passed. The lights in my multicultural neighborhood are a very odd mixture of stuff–from modern Target reindeer to old-fashioned items that look like they came from the Fifties, and probably did.

When I arrive in Baltimore in the next few days, it will look pretty much the same. The cars won’t be as nice, and there will be even more ornaments from the Fifties. You know, those “big” bulbs, not the little twinkly ones. I love the big ones.

Because, of course, those are the lights of my childhood. I remember my brothers coming home from midnight mass (both altar boys), coming to my room to get me to sleep by telling me that they’d seen Santa as they walked the ten city blocks, and if I didn’t close my eyes, he’d pass right by the house, just like the Goodyear blimp did.

I remember waking up to find a Little Lulu doll, and if that weren’t enough, she was in her own stroller. That’s the year I got a second gift, too. A grey stuffed elephant. I named him Harry Elephante, because that was what I thought the singer’s name was.

That is the last magical Christmas I remember. The rest got kinda blurry, with family strife, struggles, and losses. The stuff that happens to all of us.

I stopped into the campus church today–a nondemonitional demi-cathedral that looks for all the world like any Catholic church. I knelt, crossed myself, and asked God if any of His story as we tell it is true. I have a few decades to get this straight in my head (I know a bunch of you would disagree with me). I didn’t hear any voices, but a family came in, and a little girl ran to the front and squealed at the prettiness of the place. Just for a moment, I remembered the feeling of pure, unfettered joy. Of wonder, of discovery. For just a second, it felt like it did when I was a tow-headed skinny little thing, clinging to Harry and Little Lulu.

My goal for this Christmas is to tell my mother how magical that Christmas was, and how much I appreciate all she did for me. It never seemed like enough, what with this “issue” and that “issue.” But crickey, she created magic out of very little money, very little time (as she worked two jobs), and a very fragile state of being.

I hope you all remember the best Christmas you ever had, and create a new one for someone else this year. And for those of you who don’t celebrate, thanks for humoring the rest of us. Merry Christmas.


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