A Christmas Past, And My Christmas Present

FINALLY Christmas!

As a child, the week before Christmas seemed to drag on ‘forever’.  Each evening, I would torture myself by staring at all the pretty wrapped presents under the tree, scoping out the name tags to see which ones were mine.  Then, I would shake each box and try to guess what was inside.

When I was 11 or 12 (I can’t remember which rotten age I was at the time) there were identical large boxes under the tree – one for me, one for my brother.  I had already guessed the other boxes held a sweater with an encyclopedia (‘C’ was missing on the shelf), a shirt with some nuts and bolts, and a shoe-box sized box that I suspected held something small, like a necklace or earrings.

My parents liked to make the gift-guessing game challenging…they always added something to a box so shaking the box wouldn’t reveal the contents.  We loved the challenge of trying to figure out which of my dad’s tools gave weight to the boxes.  We rarely guessed what caused the rattles…could be nails, nuts, bolts, wall plates, outlet boxes, or a myriad of other goodies housed in his tool boxes in the garage.

After what seemed like months of staring at the big boxes, we finally got to open them on Christmas Eve.  I tore the paper away and saw a picture of a TV on the box.  Not trusting that’s what was in the box (they were also famous for reusing boxes), I yanked the flaps and busted the staples out – it really was a 13” black and white TV…for MY ROOM!  I squealed with excitement – it was the best gift EVER!

Next to a tablet PC, iPod, Kindle, or any of the current gaming systems, this gift seems like the punch line to a bad joke.  But back then, we didn’t have home computers; portable music was on a Walkman radio/cassette player; paperback and hard cover were the only book reading choices; and we played Breakout and Pong on our Atari console.

Of course, the TV was more than just a TV.  It meant security and hope for better times.  Even as a child, I knew my parents wouldn’t spend money they didn’t have.  I never asked if we were broke, but I got my answer with every “we can’t afford it” my parents said.  After several lean years, the TV seemed so lavish; I almost forgot we weren’t wealthy.

This year, Christmas is coming up like a jet touching down on a landing strip.  I want to clinch my eyes shut so Christmas doesn’t run right over me.  Instead, I stand my ground, wide-eyed and ready to take it like a mom (ha, ha).  I swear I went to sleep on December 17th and woke up to find it is December 22nd.  How the days in between passed so quickly, I don’t know.

This time of year is just an exaggeration of how time passes the rest of the year.  As I get older, the hands on the clock seem to move faster.  Sometimes I feel like I’m scrambling along on the treadmill and someone keeps turning the speed dial up.  My feet move as fast as I can make them, but I get further behind.  If it cranks up any more, I’ll surely drop my bowl of ice cream.

I have the perfect gift for myself this year:  time.  I can always use it, and there is no chance of returns, exchanges or do-overs.  Not just any time, though…no, this time is special.  It’s writing time.

Ever since I finally finished the story I posted last week (The Collector), I’ve been disturbed by the amount of time it took me to get to that point (over 3 months).  I’ve been discouraged about my lack of progress on my novel writing (um, none).  I know life still happens and I’ve a lot to do, but surely I can do a better job carving out writing time.

I’m going to start by using three hours the day after Christmas, with the goal of writing the backstory for the 3rd character in my novel.  With my hot beverage on my desk, to warm my fingers and my brain, I’ll see if I can lay out the first draft.  (If my brain functions well, I’ll stick to hot tea; if I need a little kick start, I’ll go for spiced cider…and if my brain and creativity abandon me, I’ll drown my sorrows in a mug of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream on top.)  One way or another, words will get on the page.

It may not be a black and white TV, but this gift will make my heart happy this Christmas.

What was your best Christmas gift ever?  What would you like that you have not received?  Are you doing anything for “you” this holiday season?

20 thoughts on “A Christmas Past, And My Christmas Present

  1. pattyabr December 22, 2011 / 10:15 AM

    Go for the spiked cider!

    My best Christmas present ever was a record player in 2nd grade. I played all my Mom’s old records (89) that broke I played them so much (before vinyl). Those records were almost the size of a big vinyl record, a little smaller, and had one song per record side. So if you bought an album you would get 6-7 records in your pack. I played the “Meet Me in St Louis” album and was even more enthralled with Judy Garland after that. Of course the “Wizard of Oz” is #1. Then I got a “Sound of Music” (33 vinyl) and played it for hours on end as well. Then Julie Andrews was my idol.

    • jannatwrites December 23, 2011 / 12:30 AM

      Wow, records. There’s a trip down memory lane, Patty. We had 45’s and LP’s (the big ones). It’s amazing that all the stuff that fits on a CD (or just digitally on an MP3 player) used to take up so much space.

      I like Sound of Music/Julie Andrews, too. I didn’t appreciate Sound of Music when I was a kid (my dad made me watch it) but now I have the DVD 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your favorite gift. I loved reading about it. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family!

  2. clarbojahn December 22, 2011 / 2:57 PM

    I don’t remember the best present I ever got but this post made me lol. We’re getting a TV this Christmas! We just got it today at Target. We’ve been making do with our old analog and antennas but now we have fiber optic internet service we can hook our TV to and get all the other channels our neighbors have. I’m not as thrilled about that as the reception we’ll get. It’ll be a lot better than what we’re used to. FIOS is coming out Saturday to hook us up. I’ll better get the old cookies out.

    Merry Christmas. Enjoy your gift of time. I may give that to myself as well. Sounds so good.

    • jannatwrites December 23, 2011 / 12:35 AM

      I bet you’ll love the new TV, Clar. My husband wants a new TV (we have an old 36″ from the mid-nineties) but I can’t see getting a new one when it works fine. Besides, it’s theft prevention – it would take three grown men to pick it up and cart it out of the house 🙂

      Enjoy all your new channels and try not to let it eat up your writing time! I hope you have a merry Christmas also and get to claim some time for yourself – whether it be writing or relaxing.

  3. nrhatch December 22, 2011 / 9:02 PM

    Loved this post. Sounds like many of my memories when Christmas stayed on the horizon for far too long.

    Now . . . WHOOSH! It’s here long before it should be.

    We only got to have the black and white TV in our room if we were sick. 😉

    • jannatwrites December 23, 2011 / 12:37 AM

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like time is on fast forward. I swear I’ll go to sleep tonight and when I wake up, it’ll be Christmas!

      I hope you have a relaxing Christmas, Nancy!

  4. philosophermouseofthehedge December 23, 2011 / 2:59 PM

    This is a great line: “This year, Christmas is coming up like a jet touching down on a landing strip.” So full of real life! Jingle on!

    • jannatwrites December 24, 2011 / 5:45 PM

      Thanks, Mouse! Christmas always comes, ready or not! I hope your season is non-stressful 🙂

  5. sufilight December 23, 2011 / 7:31 PM

    I enjoyed reading of your parents’ creative gift wrapping to keep the children guessing. 🙂 I paused and tried to remember my best Christmas ever but can’t recall one. I just remember feeling joy and anticipation for all the gifts and fun I would have. I too find time is flying now that I am older, before I know it, it’s Friday!

    • jannatwrites December 24, 2011 / 5:48 PM

      Glad I’m not the only one who’s felt the speeding up of time, Sufilight 🙂 I also remember the anticipation of opening the packages, but not necessarily the gifts. It just reinforces the notion that ‘things’ aren’t what matter most.

      I hope your holiday is filled with joy, laughter and time spent with friends and family!

  6. Debbie December 24, 2011 / 8:20 AM

    Janna, if somebody gives you the gift of time (novel-writing time, that is), would you please send them immediately to my house with some time for me?? Every time I say I’m going to set aside time to write, something crucial intervenes — work, family obligations, etc. And then, when I finally do find/steal an extra hour or so, my Muse up and vanishes! I know nobody ever said it would be easy, but does it have to be this hard?!

    • jannatwrites December 24, 2011 / 5:50 PM

      Debbie, I am cautiously optimistic that I will get to claim this time…I don’t have work, hubby is busy and kids will be with Grandma & Grandpa…SO, if Angry Birds doesn’t suck the hours away, it could be productive! I do fear it will turn out as you say, and I will have no inspiration. Will let you know.

      I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the time with your son 🙂

  7. cuhome December 26, 2011 / 4:13 PM

    Your description of trying to guess what was in each box/package brought back memories. One favorite in our household was to hide a gift within a box, which was within a box, which was in a box . . . no telling how big the gift was that way!!

    • jannatwrites December 26, 2011 / 11:02 PM

      I think that makes things fun, Cuhome! The bread machine box ends up holding a new necklace 🙂

  8. judithhb December 28, 2011 / 3:01 PM

    As with Cuhome, we had boxes within boxes when my children were growing up. One gift I remember clearly – I have always hated silver goblets. One Christmas morning I opened one of my gifts and there nestled in its box was a silver goblet – I thought this strange but thanked my late husband as graciously as possible. The next identical box held the other goblet but nestled inside that was a lovely heavy gold necklace. The thanks were genuine for that goblet.

    • jannatwrites December 28, 2011 / 11:16 PM

      What a fun way to present a gift, Judith. At least he didn’t give you a vacuum cleaner or blender…I think that would have been worse than a sliver goblet 🙂

  9. pattisj December 28, 2011 / 8:29 PM

    It seemed like that last week of school before Christmas vacation would never end! I guess my brother and I weren’t very inquisitive, just glad to have something under the tree. A lot of our presents never got wrapped, they just showed up Christmas morning. I liked your jet analogy, and “take it like a mom.” Creative! I hope you find a way to have the gift of time as often as you’d like. Time does seem to exceed the speed of light these days.

    • jannatwrites December 28, 2011 / 11:18 PM

      Thanks, Patti! I think gifts appearing Christmas morning is fun, too 🙂

      I did cash in on my gift of time and got so much writing/reading done. I feel much better now…

  10. sonsothunder December 30, 2011 / 11:56 AM

    Amen, I remember not being able to sleep on Christmas night, and getting up at daybreak, which eventually became just NEVER sleeping and getting up at 4 A.M. to see what was under the tree. I can relate about time flying by also. I often wonder if getting older is all there is to it, as time seems to go quicker each and every year for the past 10. Yeah, seems like Christmas should at least still be a month away.
    Bless You
    Happy New Year

    • jannatwrites December 30, 2011 / 9:36 PM

      I’m glad I’m not the only one experiencing the time-fly phenomenon, but I wish it would slow down just a bit…there’s no hurry!

      Thank goodness I don’t have the sleepless anticipation any more because I need my sleep 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Paul. I hope you have a safe and happy New Year!

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