TSB columnist Eliska Counce shares a vivid holiday memory as part of our seasonal series.
I was asked about my peak Christmas experiences recently and to expound upon the topic. It left me musing, a bit. I have to say: I don’t really have too many Christmas experiences that differentiate themselves as particularly hilarious. There was the year Santa wrote “Love, SC” on my Etch-A-Sketch he left on my living room couch. That was pretty heady stuff for a seven year old, getting a note from the fat man himself.
The first Christmas Hubs and I had as a couple is a good one, too. Recent college grads, we were preparing for our move out of our school apartment we had shared. Not much money, not many decorations, and I don’t remember exactly what gifts were exchanged. But we cut down a tree together that the cats wouldn’t cease scaling, and I made us stockings with our names spelled out in glitter glue pen. Sigh. Romantic times. Since, he’s given me a couple of breathtaking Christmas gifts, and those times my gift was sparkly, I can’t deny, were pretty darn awesome.
But when I started thinking about it, one of my most satisfying holiday experiences, with all due respect to Dr. Seuess, came without boxes or bags. Because this is a memory more of a feeling, a feeling of warmth and security, laughter and relaxation adults can find difficult to experience. A time when all roads stretch in front of you presenting an infinity of possibilities, when you experience the security of knowing someone was always on the way to pick you up. A time before the world of adult responsibilities and realities. A time before a child looks to you to provide that same safety.
I was fourteen. It was an unusually cold Christmas Eve in Mississippi. Fifteen degrees was abnormal for the land of the perpetual green Christmas. But the chill added to the cozy feeling of being tucked in my warm home, fire cheerfully blazing next to the tree strung with the same fat, colored lights my parents still put up to this day.
It was late. Our parents were headed out to midnight Mass. In exchange for springing us from Mass, my thirteen year old brother and I were put in charge of making sure our four year old brother stayed in bed and didn’t pull a Cindy Lou Who. Plus, the teens were being given elven duty: we were to put out the youngest’s Santa haul. This felt like a weighty responsibility, but my brother and I were up for it.
With The Nutcracker playing in the background and Tchaikovsky as our soundtrack, my brother and I laid out the youngest’s toys on the couch just as they had been laid out for us when we were four. Now, as this was the 80s, my brother, as did many 80s tykes, loved the cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. And Santa had brought every action figure in the cast. Best of all, Santa had included Castle Greyskull, a massive, grey, plastic mountain-castle, for them all to fight over.
My brother and I decided to assemble Castle Greyskull. Then, giggling so uncontrollably we feared waking our brother, we removed He-Man, Teela, Battle Car, Skeletor, and Man-At-Arms from their packaging and staged them. Their battle scene was epic. It was the first time I saw Christmas not so much about looking forward to getting presents. This year, I saw how fun it was to give fun to someone you love: especially when it’s anonymous. We couldn’t wait to see our brother’s face when he came into the living room.
So, Christmas at Castle Greyskull was one of the best Christmas experiences I can recall. The looking forward to giving instead of receiving. Combined with the warmth and security I felt as a child, the feeling of fun, laughter, relaxation and the excitement of the possibility of thrilling a child with a gift was truly beautiful. This is the feeling I hope everyone who reads this piece, no matter what you believe or how you celebrate, enjoy. May peace be with you.