By: Michelle Gunnin
As I get older, I find Christmas to be the season of nostalgia. Maybe it’s because things in the family are changing, or perhaps it’s a desire to relive childhood. Either way, I find my mind wandering back to the “good ole days” and resurrecting long lost memories.
The long-awaited ring of the phone caused every child’s ears to perk up.
“Kids, someone is on the phone for you!”
Little feet pattered across the creaky hardwood floors of my great aunt’s house. We came from every direction, but we all ended up in one place, standing beside the phone.
Every Christmas Eve it was the same. The family gathered to feast and open gifts. It was a once-a-year event which brought us together with cousins we rarely saw otherwise. As each family arrived with packages, the room was filled with brightly wrapped boxes of all shapes and sizes. It wasn’t long before the presents overflowed under the tree and clogged the walking space. Our eyes glowed in anticipation, but the meal came first.
Only afterward, once the coconut cake, fudge, and divinity were consumed did we retire to the living room, which was as stuffed with presents as our bellies were with food.
We elves got to pass out the presents. My Aunt Polly was a kindergarten teacher, so allowing the kids to distribute the gifts was her secret way of getting in a reading lesson. It was a favorite activity, and I believe it also worked off some of our sugar-fueled pent-up energy. Funny, I don’t remember much about what gifts I received, it is more the warm feeling of family that stands out these days.
Somewhere amidst the packages, crumpled gift wrap, and bows, the phone would ring. We all knew who was on the other end. We dropped everything and clamored to be the first to talk to him. Of course, it was Santa! The grown-ups gathered round to hear the conversations, which I am sure were adorable. One at a time we stepped up to take the phone. I still have butterflies in my stomach as I remember his deep magical voice asking, “What do you want me to bring you tonight?”
Each year, my nerves caused me to freeze and forget what to ask for. I was shy and had to be coaxed to talk to him. We first had to have a conversation to jog my memory, every time…but one.
On this night, I knew exactly what I was going to ask for. It was my secret wish that I saved just for him. I boldly grabbed the heavy black handset and announced, to the great surprise of my parents, that I wanted a ballerina costume.
When he asked what else I wanted, I said, “Nothing else.”
So, he told me what he always did, “Be on the lookout for my sleigh tonight on your way home.” I did. And like always, I saw Rudolf’s nose in the sky in the same place I saw it every year, blinking away to guide the sleigh.
What I didn’t see the look of alarm on my parents’ faces after the phone call. My eyes got heavy in the car, and when we arrived home, my dad carried my siblings and me to bed one at a time. Then, I am told, panic ensued because there was no ballerina costume hidden in the closet or under the tree.
Stores were closed. It was before 24/7 shopping was a thing, back when everyone had days off and was home with family on the holidays. My parents determined there was nothing to be done about my surprise request.
However, my Aunt Betty, also a teacher, was a resourceful woman who never threw anything away. An old leotard, some scrap tulle, and hours until morning, combined to make last-minute ballerina dreams come true.
Secretly in the night, long after Santa had come and gone, the suit was hung in the garage on the car antenna. In the morning, disappointment clouded my eyes, until the magical suit was found with a note attached that said, “I forgot this, and I didn’t want to wake your mom and dad, so I left it here for you. Happy dancing! Love, Santa”
When I told all my friends that I talked to Santa on the phone and told him what I wanted, they didn’t believe me, but I was convinced more than ever before that Santa was real.
They were astounded that I got a phone call from Santa every year. Didn’t Santa call every boy and girl on Christmas Eve? Was I so special that I got to talk to him when others didn’t? That phone call and the ‘ballerina escapade’ as it is known in my family, bought me a couple more years of childhood innocence.
Looking back now, I see it was really about family all along. My Uncle Iman, who worked for the railroad every Christmas Eve, was included in our family gathering by becoming Santa. Aunt Polly provided a magical place for our festivities that kept us occupied. Aunt Betty, as well as the other grown-ups like my grandparents, listened intently to the Santa call each year for any random list items which had been forgotten.
My parents were blessed with quiet, exhausted children who dozed off on the ride home while gazing out the window, convinced the radio tower light was Rudolf’s blinking nose.
It was all of it blended together that created the magic of Christmas. As families change, so do the traditions. We create new ones with each passing and keep the Spirit of Christmas alive to pass along to our own children.
All the materialism and commercialism of the season cannot choke out the true meaning of Christmas if we are committed to keeping it.
Love was born. Joy was made manifest. Hope was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Peace came on a silent night. He created us to know and to carry these true gifts to the world…with or without a ballerina suit.
Michelle Gunnin is an everyday woman who is a writer, a wife, a mom of four adult children, a former teacher, a colleague, a missionary, a sister, and a daughter. She is also a cancer survivor, a caregiver, and a recovering Pharisee.
With more questions than answers, Michelle writes to explore both. She is determined to be in the moment and live fully…both things life has taught her.
You can follow her blog at michellesmosaic.wordpress.com
Michelle is a monthly contributor at Two Drops of Ink. Click this link for all of her posts: Michelle Gunnin