Christmas morning is a memory that we all have imprinted in our little corner of childhood experiences.
Some remember it with the house full of people, dawning already with morning bustle. Others have that memory of sunrise in their villages, the place of origin to which we have always returned, with the grandparents lighting the fire in the wood stove. Others will remember it many miles from home, in unknown destinations, enjoying vacation days to walk through new streets with their lights and festive atmosphere.
I have recorded my Christmas mornings with a mix of all of it. The house full of people, that grandparent’s house that is the bond that binds us all. The place to always return to. Cousins who woke up excited, noise in every room, people everywhere preparing what would be the second big feast in less than 24 hours. The grandfather, my granddaddy always busy, quiet, busy in the tasks that he had assigned himself, and that no one would dare to take from him, lighting the wood stove in time to have the dining room worm for the pack that would run excited down the stairs
And we went down. We discovered between excited and curious what they had left each one of us at the foot of the tree. A tree that my grandad would later transplant to the farm near home, and that was not always a fir. Because if there were something in which we were willing to skip the tradition it was in the species that would decorate the dining room during the holidays. I have seen everything year after year, and we were close to have a tremendous family schism the year that my grandfather thought that it would be a good idea to decorate my grandmother’s giant beautiful cactus and he stucked the Christmas star on top and also its corresponding lights. That was too much, even for me. But there was the cactus, until the 7th of January as in “tidy up Christmas” we have always been very strict.
Christmas morning had its own “stages.” It was always the same and what is always repeated, almost naturally, remains indelible in our memory: opening gifts with that illusion that only children are capable of, running to have breakfast like if we haven’t had a bite in days, wrapping up warm a lot with parents and grandparents saying that you are not wrapped up warm enough, and going out, running to the Playground.
And finally you reached the park. Suddenly, that everyday park, became an even more fun place than usual on the summer and winter days that you spent on vacation with your grandparents. All the children in the village, those who lived there all year long and those of us who returned to our place of origin whenever we could, we alternated the game between the swings, the slide, the climbing arch that made my mother tremble every time we got on, and all the new toys. You could be kicking off a skateboard, testing your cousin’s new bike, or riding a block fort on the very seat of the swing. A perfect symbiosis of games and toys. And a lot of things to do until you were required for Christmas lunch and you arrived at the table, almost always late, still with your hands red because of the cold and the illusion of going back down to the park in the afternoon as there were many things left to do.
The Christmas morning of my childhood is a memory that I have in print and I relive it every year with love. Now I am not the one who runs down to the playground to have fun and enjoy what they have left me under the tree: I am the one who runs after that girl who now has to live it, and who teaches me that there are things that will never change. My daughter reaffirms what I already knew: playing is the most beautiful thing in childhood, and playing at Christmas it is even more.