Dearest Mom and Dad

Christmas 1980-ish.

Dearest Mom and Dad,

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bing Crosby’s line: “I’ll be home for Christmas … if only in my dreams.” As much as I get the sentiment, I think I prefer to say if only in my memories. That’s where all my colorful, childhood Christmases live. 

I posted the picture above (despite how blurry it is) because that smile expresses it all. I’ve nothing but joyous remembrances of holidays at our house. Our house was always filled with warmth and happiness and funny grown-ups eating too much food and imbibing fancy cocktails and wine by the boxful. I can picture the table, lined with dinner plates overflowing with gravy laced turkey and twice-baked potatoes and stuffing (mmmm, yummy stuffing) and cranberry jelly and green and orange veggies. And of course once we were already full to bursting, we gorged on a spread of chocolates wrapped in tinselly foil paper and waxy sleeves, and bowls of humbugs and mandarins and mixed nuts you earned with a handheld nutcracker, squeezing with all your might. Homemade fruit cakes and gooey sweet squares and pies—chocolate and lemon meringue and Macintosh apple—and crème de menthe desserts with mint ice cream and chocolate crumble crust, all of them just lying around for the taking. (I can’t even IMAGINE the dishes, washed by hand and towel-dried!) 

Everyone was pleasantly sedated with goodies before the adults sat around teasing each other and reminiscing about Christmases past. I recall plenty of laughter and even some tears (sentimental, of course—unless they were crocodile tears from overtired, overstimulated, overstuffed kids). We’d watch you play competitive card games and rounds of Scrabble, and all of this after you’d woken up before sunrise to put an enormous turkey in the oven and watch us ogle at Santa’s delivery. 

I’ll never forget that early morning feeling, prefaced by a late night of oysters and crackers and chocolate fondue after an eventful evening at a packed church. I don’t know which I loved more: the last carol before exiting or seeing all the Advent candles lit upon entering. I’m astonished we fell asleep that night, though I’m not sure children actually sleep on Christmas Eve. I think they just float is some stasis, an abyss that keeps them nestled until morning. Waking to the snow outside, we lined the window to see, with Christmas lights blinking and twinkling on the tree.

Our tree was always the same. Every single decoration a testament to our years together. The trimming never failed to remind us this was tradition and we’d see it again next year. We kept those decorations in a great big (broken) wardrobe box, an old moving box from long ago. It was such a pleasure to take it out every year to decorate that tree we’d picked on a magical trip to the tree farm. Dad’s chore to cut and cull our very own! 

No, excitement doesn’t quite cut it. That’s too trite a word. Pure glee, that’s the correct expression. Honest hope in the unexpected, too. The circumference of gifts beneath the tree would continue to grow in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We’d always try to figure out who was getting what. You’d write elaborate sphinxlike acronyms (mom, the wordsmith) to keep us from guessing. Despite our daily deciphering efforts, we’d fail to break the code. Partially because you’d change the shapes, too. My Cabbage Patch dolls were placed in footwear boxes. Do you recall being so sneaky? Do you know, that’s not only brilliant but also a testament to your wanting to give us the best Christmases ever. And I’ve the memories to prove your success. 

So in a year that’s been particularly difficult for so many, and one that won’t go out with a bang but rather a passive protest against this continued isolation, I’ve got all the warmth of those Christmases. I hope you do, too. We’ll make new ones in the years to come. And this one, via FaceTime, will be added to them. Because I’ll always remember it, knowing how lucky I am to be celebrating my 47th Christmas with you—even if virtual and across 4500 kilometers. Thank goodness for techno-miracles. Ho Ho Ho!

I love you dearly, 

Kimmy-Koo, your little monkey-moo.

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