Advent Calendar – Day 4
My Mother’s Christmas Wrapping Was Really Tight(s)
When I think back to childhood Christmases, another one that always jumps out in my memory, is the one where my Sister almost missed her choir gig on Christmas morning because of a wardrobe malfunction. During the 1980’s they didn’t have altar girls, as they do now, at least not in my parish, so the only option for girls was to join the choir. So I would be up at the front of the church with my boyos, and my Sister would be up in the balcony with the Pipe Organ blaring, and good ol’ Tom Hickey (no relation) cutting verses quite dramatically. His performance always stirred me, and was easily imitable and a great source of hours of fun recreating his vocal stylings among my peers. Two of our favorite pastimes were imitating him, and also imitating our parish Shepard, Fr. Mahoney.
From an altar boys perspective, I was jealous that we were not allowed up into the church balcony. It was off-limits to everyone but the choir. When I think back to the days when the church was full to capacity both above and below, it gives me a chill to think of the hymns and prayers collecting in the stratosphere of the church ceiling. I bet it was loud. It never happened on my watch, more’s the pity.
At any rate, I digress…one fine 1980’s Christmas morning, as the hush had fallen over our second-floor North Mead Street apartment, my Sister and I had awoken to the delight of a living room full of treasure. This surely was some form of devilry. We had only gone to bed eight short hours ago, and the living room was empty. Barren, except for the blue ringed light of our gas heater, the snoring of hour Irish Setter Katie, and perhaps the singular orange glow of my Mother’s Newport lighting the room as some form or Northern Star to light Santa Clause’s way to our home. Yes, you could hear her even and enjoyed breathing of her cigarettes; making menthol memories. My father, likely asleep, and she, anxiously awake because everything had to be just right. In retrospect, and having experienced the dance myself, I regard their preparation and execution of holiday happiness delivery to have been of a Master’s skill level.
So we awaken, quite surely, not too long after they turned in. And we explode from our rooms into the living room. Full of piss and vinegar, and candy cane vigor. We stormed to our designated spots. I’ve made mention in prior blogs about how seriously my Mother took this holiday, and the presentation of the presents. We were lovingly spoiled, and there was no deterring my Mother of this. It was a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” situation. I suspect that there was a strong matrilineal legacy of gift giving. My Mother drove it to an excess, and I am grateful for all of it. At times, I wish I could convey that thought to her now.
Well, despite her proclivity to procure piles of presents for each of us; the run up to Christmas Day, came at the expense of other domestic requirements. With all the wrapping of presents, and house cleaning for our family’s visitation on Christmas Day, and the preparation of food for the feast, the laundry would pile up. If you can remember nothing else from this post, then it must be the fact that the laundry had piled up, because without this one detail, what transpired after my Sister and I had awoken to the victory of a living room of presents, cannot be belied by the actions that usurped our opening and enjoying those mysterious gifts.
Now I can’t recall exactly what time it was, but it was around 6:30-7am. And that is a rather large BUT, because much to our chagrin, we forgot the fact that we couldn’t open presents until my sister had gone across the street to church and fulfilled her obligation (luckily, I had completed my obligation the evening before on Christmas Eve).
Yes, you read that correctly, after a year’s worth of anticipation, we had to wait at least three more Goddamned excruciating hours before we could touch present one.
This should have been quite simple, but it was not.
My Sister was directed to get dressed for church, but it was soon realized, much to my parents chagrin, that she did not have the requisite tights to go with her outfit, bought special just for the occasion.
Well, my parents were fit to be tied by Goddamned tights. And you see, this is where that piddly little detail of the piled-up laundry comes to play; there were no laundered tights. All the tights were “in the laundry”. Well, one certainly does not go out into the Winter Wonderland, wearing a Christmas Dress, without the warmth of white tights. God knows, he simply knows, and so does Fr. Mahoney. I don’t believe he did spot checks, but there was a dress code.
So, impatient kids, sleep deprived parents, no coffee made yet, piles of laundry, a litany of finger-pointing, a few “Nooooooooo, fuck yous”, and there we were.
Finally, my parents held a very animated but whispered conversation accompanied with contorted faces, and the realization that a solution was in sight. My father came and led us out of the living room, and down the hall to the dining room, where we were threatened with recourse if we dared go back to the living room. He then returned to the living room. We were simply thinking WTF, before WTF became a universal acronym.
Not soon after he had disappeared, we heard a frenzy of activity coming from the living room we just vacated. My mother channeling the spirit of an old-time prospector tore into my Sister’s pile of presents with a determined focus. We could hear the tearing of paper, followed by what I can only imagine would be my Father replacing the wrapping as he trailed behind her. My Sister started into her crinkle cry face. Being the asshole I was, I giggled.
Apparently, in their conversation, the whispered one which we were not privy to, it was remembered that they had bought white tights as part of another dress ensemble that was to make its appearance at the gift opening revelations. But…and this is a rather large BUT, we were not allowed to open gifts until after my sister returned from Christmas Choir.
So, this one singular moment, was my Mother’s Kobayashi Maru
And, I’m happy to say she passed without having to alter the test in order to pass. Sure there were tears, wrapping paper torn, and clouds of profanity hung over our Christmas gorging, but my Sister got herself some white tights to wear warmly to Christmas Morning Mass Church Choir.
When she got home, she reopened the twice-wrapped presents, and at the end of the day, the newly dirty white tights made it into the mountain of laundry in the hamper awaiting post-Christmas washing.
I won’t ever know if anyone would have been the wiser if she went bare-legged to the church that day, but, and it is a rather large BUT, we wouldn’t have the gift of the memory of our Mother tearing through piles of presents with reckless abandon on one fine 1980’s Christmas Morning.
If you liked this post, take a look at the last one…Advent Calendar Day 3
If anyone is in the Metro Boston this Friday, December 7th, please consider joining me, and my best friend, the West Coast Bandit, as we attend a night full of entertainment for a great cause at: Don’t Forget Your Art!
I performing a piece that means a lot to me. You should really come by and see if the poem is about you. How will you ever know if you aren’t there? Are you willing to take that chance? I wouldn’t, I’d definitely be there, just in case.