One of my favorite images of Christmas was when I was pregnant with Bobby. I was due at the end of January, so we celebrated at our house since I wasn't supposed to travel. Billy was 3 and a half and was so excited about Santa arriving that when the rest of us came upstairs on Christmas Eve to go to bed, we found Billy, asleep, on the top of the stairs. Waiting for Santa.
Half of the fun of the holiday season is the anticipation that builds. Some of my favorite memories of our Christmases in Japan were of the build up to the holidays.
One of the things I looked most forward to was the arrival of my brother, Bill, who was in school and later college in the States. He'd spend nearly a month back in Japan with us and I loved it when he was home. He would take me to movies: I still remember seeing Oliver in one of the huge Japanese movie theaters and Tora, Tora, Tora (that was an experience in Japan!). The movie-going seems to be a theme with us. When I was unhappy in high school, I'd often go down to visit he and his wife and see classic movies in Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. I learned to appreciate Bogey and the Marx brothers through him. As the kids grew and we'd go to visit him, he introduced the boys to Mel Brooks and Kurosawa among others.
I remember the Christmas when we lived in Korea. Bill had arrived the night before and I wanted to show my wonderful brother to my friends. We crept into his room, four of us, and gathered around the head of the bed and just stared at him, like he was an amazing specimen! He woke up, jet lagged, to find 4 eleven year olds staring curiously at him.
I think one of the other reasons I liked Bill being home was that we lived in 3 bedroom apartments in Tokyo, and so when he arrived, I'd have to move in with my sister. Now for me, as a seven or eight year old, this was a wonderful thing, sleeping with my big sister. Not only did it save me the bother of sneaking in her room, which I did on a regular basis to "explore" her stuff, but I loved the proximity to her. During the rest of the year she was busy being a typical teenager, and this was for me, our special time together. But for her, being seven years older than me, maybe it wasn't such a thrill! Still, she was usually especially nice to me when I shared her room and this was the best Christmas gift she could give me.
Once I was married and had kids, their anticipation took over. For many years we'd go to my parents when they lived in Ocean Pines. We'd talk daily, sometimes more in the week before. By the time we pulled into the North Gate, across the pond, the boys would be jumping out of their skins. Mom would have everyone's favorite cookie (I mean each grandchild and her own kids' favorites...a LOT of cookies!). The tree would be up in the sun room, with the little train set under it and gifts strewn everywhere. They'd get to spend time playing with their cousin, their aunt and uncles and even take a dip in the hot tub that sat, strangely enough, in my parent's garage. My mom made sure everything was perfect. The whole experience was a gift.
When I asked my eldest what he looks forward to about Christmas he talked about the games we play: mahjong, various board games, charades, the wonderful food and most importantly, no one working, just enjoying the warm and fuzzy feeling of being together as a family. And that's what it's all about isn't it?