Christmas is a special time for many children in the world. Those who celebrate the holiday suddenly remember around Thanksgiving, that they need to be “good” in order for Santa to come on Christmas Eve. The world is filled with suddenly helpful, obedient, and non-fussing-with-sibling, children (laughing)! It’s a wonder that parents don’t arrange for “Christmas”to arrive every month, just to keep children in line!
There are many Christmases that stand out for me. Christmas of 1964 is near the top of the list.
I remember being so extra good that November and December.At seven, I did my chores without being reminded… a first; I brushed my teeth for real instead of just swishing with water; I went outside and ice skated in the park with my friends instead of staying in my room reading as I usually did… I was the model poster child. It didn’t last beyond Christmas when I reverted to my usual “Oh Joyce!” persona (laughing). But that year, I had an extra special Christmas list.
Christmas morning arrived and I leapt out of bed and ran to my parent’s room. “Mommy, Daddy! We have to see if Santa came!” I yelled excitedly. My mommy, who was about ready to deliver my brother at any moment, smiled up at me. “Go look and see, but don’t touch anything until we get there,” she said. I ghosted!
In our living room, I looked across the vast distance,zeroing in on the Christmas tree. Something caught my eye and I turned to the right. “I got it! I got it!” I screamed, jumping up and down. “Santa brought my piano!!!” There it sat, a brand new Lyon & Healy upright piano. I plopped down on the bench and lifted the lid, already envisioning the beautiful sounds I would make, just like the woman at the symphony I’d seen in January. I would be just as famous as she was in no time! Placing my hands on the keys, I positioned my fingers just as hers had been and plunked out the most awful sound in the world (laughing). Stunned, I resettled my fingers and tried again…same mess.
“You’ll have to take lessons, Joyce,” Mommy spoke from the doorway. “Practice and practice and you will play beautifully some day.”
“But I want to play Christmas music for everyone today,” I wailed. “I should be able to play, I watched everything she did.”
“Who did?” Mommy asked, confused.
“The lady with the symphony in January,” I exclaimed. “I want to play like her.” By now, I was crying.
“Joyce, stop. You will be able to play just as beautifully as the soloist at the symphony someday, if you practice hard and do everything Mr. Wooten tells you to do.”
“But I have been!” I explained through my tears. “I thought I just needed my own piano to be able to play better. It should have worked.”
“Oh Joyce,” Mommy sighed, brushing my cheek, “It just doesn’t work that way. You have to focus and practice.”
I slammed the keyboard lid down and got off the bench without a word. Marching across the living room in search of more cooperative gifts!
On my way, I spotted the bike… no, The Bike… the 3-speed English Racer bike that was just like my cousin David’s, only for a girl. Euphoria filled me again, the piano fiasco long forgotten… and I never did playlike the symphony soloist, by the way!
“Can I go outside and ride it? Please Mommy?” I begged, hopping up and down.
“May I, not can I. No Joyce, there is snow everywhere. You may ride when the snow clears.”
“Can I ride it in the basement then?”
“May I… Yes, but not today,” Came her automatic response.
Further frustrated, my eyes landed next on the brand new ice skates with their gleaming white boots and silver sharp blades. Promptly sitting on the floor, I threw off my slippers and shoved my feet into the skates. Already picturing myself gliding across the ice just like the Olympic Skaters we watched every winter. I could hear the roar of the crowd and see myself standing on the 1st Place box with my Gold Medal around my neck. Standing on my brand new ice skates, so much better than the babyishstrap-on ones I currently had. This will make all the difference, I thought. “Can I… May I go across the street to skate on the rink?” I added a big smile, certain that it would make the difference.
“No, Joyce. It’s Christmas morning.”
“Right, so I should get to play with my presents then,” I pointed out. “It’s not fair to get presents I can’t do anything with!”
“Joyce,” she sighed, “Just open the rest of your gifts.”
Turning back to the bounty under and around the ceiling tall tree, I spotted a large box, beautifully wrapped, and grabbed for it. “My Easy Bake Oven!!!” I yelled. “Uncle Cal got it! He got it for me! I’m going to cook wonderful dinners in it!” I looked up at Mommy with a big grin. “I can cook Christmas dinner for you, so you can rest with the baby.”
“Thank you Joyce, why don’t you practice on simple dishes first though?”
“Okay,” I yelled. “I’ll cook something now.” Then I paused.Was this to be yet another gift I had to wait until I could use it… or would this one get me a “pass”?
“Ladies don’t yell Joyce. That’s fine, just don’t make a mess,” Mommy said as she turned toward the kitchen.
“Oh wait! I have to open the rest of my stuff and you and Daddy have to open yours.” She turned back and walked over to one of the chairs to sit.
Mommy watched me open the pile of presents and toys that could have been distributed to an army of children with an indulgent smile. I ripped and tossed paper and bows all over the living room. Daddy came out and sat to watch.
Finally, finished and exhausted, we had all unwrapped the Christmas bounty and exclaimed over every item. Ready to start baking, I turned back to the Easy Bake Oven box, prepared to open it and read the instructions.“Make your list so you can write your thank-you notes tomorrow,” Mommy said over her shoulder on the way to the kitchen to start Christmas dinner. Sigh, always the thank-you notes, Ithought. Bet other children don’t have to do this… just us! I left the living room, headed to my room for paper and pencil to make the dreaded list. It was the same for every birthday and Christmas. Make a list of the gift and who gave it to me. Use my stationary to write a thank-you note to every person… even relatives… get the addresses and stamps from Mommy… put them in the mailbox for the postman to pick up. Sheesh, I already thanked them yesterday when we were out delivering our gifts and I’ll see everybody else when they get here today for dinner. So why do I always have to write and mail the notes?I grumbled inwardly. If I have children,I’m not going to make them write thank-you notes! was my final thought of defiance as I finally returned and started my task.
Later that morning, Nana arrived with hugs and kisses, then Uncle Cal and my cousins, Gigi, Auntie, Grandpa Ed, and a host of other relatives filled our house with laughter and love. Mommy came up to me and hugged me. “I’m going to the hospital to get your little brother or sister now,” she whispered in my ear. “Why is he there? Is he sick?” I asked, having already decided this summer that I would have a brother, not a sister.
“No Joyce, that’s where Mommy’s go so the doctor can take the baby out of their tummy’s.”
“Oh. Okay then. Come back with him soon so I can play with him,” I replied, engrossed in the cake recipe for my oven. She kissed me and left.
The rest of the day was filled with people, phone calls from relatives in other states, and playing games. I plunked out a one-fingered version of Jingle Bells on my new piano, to my disgust and everyone else’s delight. I made recordings of everyone on my new tape recorder from Uncle Cal.
At about 8:30 that evening, Nana came into my room to wake me up. “Mommy wants to talk to you,” she said. “Put your robe and slippers on and come to the phone.” Sleepily, I complied. Walking into the kitchen, I took the phone from Nana. “Hi Mommy,” I sleepily mumbled. “Joyce,” Mommy said, “You hav ea little brother.” “I know. I already told you that I was having a brother.” I replied, hung up the phone, and went back to bed (laughing).