Christmas has come and gone! Even with my little family celebrating it a day later it has blinked into the distance even before I’ve been able to say good-bye. This last story I’d like to close with is another Christmas memory from my childhood.
Christmas day always moves faster than you’d like it to. You’re so excited to go to sleep, the night before, and then wake up to see what you’ve been given the next day. For me Christmas morning meant more than just giving and receiving presents. It meant I spent an entire day with my father under one roof. There would be no home or yard projects that would take him away. No trips to the city dump or hardware store to fix something that had been broken. It meant that dad was ours for the entire day.
We kids would wake up just before dawn, dressed in new pajamas and hovering at our bedroom doors. The house would be silent, save for the soft snores from my parent’s room.
“Michael are you awake yet?” My sister asked, poking her head into my room.
“Of course I am! Is Rob?”
Our older brother Rob, inhabited the basement. He, being the oldest, was always awake and ready for Christmas to begin. He’d be waiting on the top stair. On cue a “PSSST” echoed down the hall.
We looked out our doors to see Rob’s head bobbing near the floor. “Are you guys ready to wake up mom and dad?”
“Yes!” We said together.
All three of us filed into our parents room, shaking with excitement. Rob looked at us and mouthed, “One, two, three.”
“Mom! Dad! Wake up! It’s Christmas!”
After my parents put themselves together it was time for us to see our Christmas. Dad always needed the tree to be lit before we ran in. There was nothing that compared to seeing presents waiting for us beneath a glowing tree.
Our small couch would be loaded with books, movies, toys, and stockings. Stuffed with so many treats you think each stocking’s seams were about to burst. They were usually filled with a layer of our favorite chocolates. Then followed with salted, unshelled peanuts, and finally a Christmas orange.
I always loved to empty my stocking. Usually there would be an unwrapped Hotwheels car and bookmark waiting for me when I did. Then, as dad passed around the nut bowl we’d each dump our stockings making a towering pile of peanuts.
Later on in the day, after breakfast Dad would help each of us put together models. He took hours setting up family board games, applying stickers to toy sets, or just playing with our new toys. All the while he’d carry a small bowl full of peanut shells as he chipped away at the pile.
He smelled like salt and peanut butter as made my Star Wars toys soar through the air. And every year I loved it.
Then one Christmas day I found something different in my stocking. Instead of the familiar peanut pods, I found small round ovals with a green split up the side. An entirely new aroma invaded my nose.
“Mom? Dad? What are these?” I asked, with some apprehension.
Dad turned in excitement to me. “Pistachios! Come on let’s try them!”
At first I wasn’t impressed. The shells bit into my fingertips and sometimes cut up under my nails. I made my dad open them for me after a few attempts.
“Try it.” He said, proffering the small green and brown nut.
Closing my eyes I did. Nothing had ever tasted so foreign and so satisfying to me before. There was a warm tang to each bite and I knew even before my eyes opened I was hooked.
Years passed and the pistachios continued to fill our stockings. Their smell continued to invoke a feeling of Christmas as we grew up. Our old ragged stockings were replaced with hand crafted pieces of art from my mother. We kids began to ask for more books, movies, and grown up things. Toys turned to clothes, and suddenly I found myself a teenager, and the only kid at home for Christmas.
It was me, my parents and grandparents for the day. I was playing Risk with my father, sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window. A familiar memory stirred in me as dad tossed a pistachio into his mouth.
“It’s your turn.” He said with a crunch.
“Hang on.” I said not looking at the board. Closing my eyes I took a deep breath in, smelling the pistachios. Memories came and went as I felt my inner child stir.
Don’t let this day end.
“Are you okay?” Dad probed, tossing a shell at me.
I smiled, my eyes still closed. “I’m fine, just smelling.”
There was a pause.
“What do you smell?” He asked.