I remember a Fisher Price train. It had a string I could pull, and a yellow horn that tooted when you pushed it down. It had an elephant that I held onto until was falling apart and dirty. I can not remember what animals came with this lovely circus train. In a picture I am wearing a blue night gown and smiling shyly as I pull the train behind me.
When I was five, we used to live above my Uncle Jim in an attic apartment. I spent a lot of time between the two apartments. My uncle taught me to roll his cigarettes on a red plastic machine. I loved doing this. The year I was six, there was a lot of activity between the two homes on Christmas Eve. Aunts ran up and down stairs bearing food and gossip. Someone came and breathlessly said that my father was downstairs. I ran downstairs, overjoyed at the prospect of seeing my father. I ran through the door into the arms of the young man with dark hair only to look up and see my dad's brother. Everyone was laughing at this mistaken identity. I laughed but inside I withered up.
The year that Christmas was ruined for us all happened my ninth year. My dad came home for Christmas Eve. It seemed like there were a lot of presents but there was a tension that I couldn't understand. My brother received a little toy brown dog that everyone kept calling a "miracle" because he had been asking for a dog and this one came from a distant aunt who had no idea he wanted a dog. I don't know what I got. I don't remember. I do remember waking up Christmas morning to find my dad gone and my mom crying in a rocking chair, wrapped up in a blanket.
Jumbled together were all the Christmases where we didn't know if we'd get gifts or not. My dad didn't always come through and my mom didn't have money. I remember feeling disappointed but more for my brothers than me (they were younger) although there was always a bit of disappointment when I told my mom to just get for them. Someone always came through and we got something. Usually my mom's brother. Christmas was sad not because of gifts though but because it reminded my mom of my dad leaving. There was joy but it was twinged with a bit of disappointment, disillusionment.
With the birth of my own children, I did not want Christmases to be filled with toys. What I wanted the most was for them to have what I missed the most about too many Christmases. Tradition. Joy. Warmth. Love. Our first Christmas with Umberto didn't involve a lot of money. We were broke. But it was a wonderful Christmas. My mom and brother were there, and for the first time it felt like Christmas was joyful. The past was pushed a bit further back and the future laid out a bit more.