The Christmas wrapping and ribbons are in the waste bin. Another New Year’s Eve has come and gone. After all the rush and commotion preceding the holiday season, a stillness, a calmness has descended upon the house.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and I start the celebrations early, almost as soon as the Thanksgiving parade ends. Most years, there are two trees to decorate, with boxes and crates of ornaments and tinsel. The cookie baking starts early in December, filling the house with scents of vanilla and cinnamon.
I adore Christmastime; even though there have been times of personal sadness attached to the days around the holiday. In years past, I lost both of my parents and my only brother during the holiday season. But I have also experienced great moments of joy and wonder at this time of year. My husband proposed on Christmas Eve–at a rest stop along the Garden State Parkway. That may sound odd, unless you knew that we spent most of our long-distance courtship driving up and down that roadway en route to each other’s home. Five years later, my Christmas twins were born, five weeks before their due date. They must have known about my fondness for all things Christmas.
Decorating the house is a nostalgic journey as I recall the history of each ornament. Some were inherited from family, some acquired on vacation holidays, many were sent by family and friends to celebrate the twins’ Christmas birthday. I carefully unwrap and hang each memory. Now that my children are teens, they help me and stop frequently to ask “Who gave us this one?” Decorating the tree can take hours as a result.
My children suffer through their parents’ annual retelling of the events of Christmas Eve leading up to their birth at 5:30 a.m. Christmas morning. We gleefully describe how I went into labor just as my husband finished assembling the cribs. How my husband insisted that we stop at the Burger King drive-through before heading to the hospital. Sensible man, he knew the cafeteria would be closed. I sat in the passenger seat, breathing and puffing just the way the Lamaze coach had taught. I’ve often wondered what the cashier thought of the heavy breathing coming from our car. Then, my long night’s labor while my husband attempted to make himself comfortable in a stiff vinyl recliner. Contrary to my detailed birth plan and repeated pleas to the nurses, when show time came, I never received the drugs and epidural I’d requested. I’d missed “the window” and so I delivered my tiny crying babies naturally, despite my best efforts to be heavily sedated.
So, at 5:30 a.m., twin A arrived, kicking and screaming, followed fifteen minutes later by twin B. For years, we refused to tell which baby arrived first, much to our children’s chagrin. Every Christmas, we’d say “It’s your turn to be the oldest” to one of them. I did this out of a desire to eliminate one small piece of sibling rivalry. I figured if neither of them knew who was first, they wouldn’t be able to pull rank on each other. This strategy worked for years until we took them for their passports when they were 8 years old. While we were standing in line at the passport office, my son grabbed the birth certificates and looked at the time of birth. “I’m the oldest!” he proclaimed. He was wrong, of course. Telling time wasn’t one of his strengths back then. It took several more years before they figured out the truth.
We’ve been careful to separate Christmas from birthday from year one. We actually celebrate the twins’ half-birthday on June 25 with parties and presents. Christmas morning is simply Christmas, with all the glitzy wrapping and bulging stockings. In the evening, after our traditional lasagna dinner, we don the silly paper crowns contained within the Christmas crackers we pop and we sing “Happy Birthday” as we pass slices of cake. After all, we need to commemorate this special day for our Christmas babies.
I can’t wait to do it all again next year.