Monday, December 04, 2006

Broken Christmases Part I

The year I was in kindergarten, my grandmother, in a rare moment of insanity, because she hated Christmas, actually came down from Virginia to spend Christmas with us in North Carolina. I can remember the excitement of having her there, which just added to my general five-year-old hysteria during the holidays. I was one of those children who felt sick whenever she was overly-excited, which means that pretty much during the whole month of December, my stomach was never very happy. From the second the Christmas specials began to appear on television, and we took out our Advent calendars, till two days after Christmas, when I sat mad at Budweiser, because they were still showing their Clydesdale holiday ads, and everyone knew Christmas was over, I ate like a bird (oh, to be young again and actually to lose weight during the holiday season!).

That Christmas, my grandmother (“Grandmic” we called her, the “Mic” being a shortened version of our sir name) had gotten my brother Ian a helicopter. It was a very, very cool toy, as far as toys went in those days. It had flashing lights and a propeller that spun around with the help of some batteries. I have no memory of the rest of this story I’m about to relate; I don't even have any memory of what Grandmic gave me that year; but I do remember that helicopter. It was definitely the highlight of that Christmas. I wished it had been given to me.

By the time Christmas dinner was over, though, I had lost interest. The helicopter was broken. Because my memory fails me, I don’t know exactly how it broke, but I imagine a Nutcracker-like scene: Ian had three bossy older sisters, all of whom were probably as enthralled by the helicopter as he was, and none of whom was over the age of nine. Most likely, we should all envision a lot of squabbling and pushing and yanking of the poor toy out of little hands. Some little scientific mind probably got it into her or his head to see what would happen if we pushed the propellers backwards. Eventually, it may have been tossed up in the air to see if it would fly. Ian, once it had been decided it wasn’t going to stay aloft, may have been doing his best three-year-old imitation of Clara saving the beloved Nutcracker when it had suffered a similar gravitational fate, to save his precious gift before it came crashing to the ground.

Grandmic used to love to tell me how Ian and I brought it to her, hoping she might be able to fix it. She was at her sympathetic best, seeing how crushed Ian was, when she had to tell him she was sorry but she couldn’t fix it. I, on the other hand, not seeming the least bit upset – after all, it wasn’t my toy that had broken – apparently looked up at her and said,

“That’s okay, Grandmic. Everything always breaks on Christmas afternoon.”

I have to admit that every time my grandmother would relate this story to me, I felt a swelling of pride. I was so young. How had I already figured out that everything breaks at Christmas?


Rebecca H. said...

So wise for your years! And yes, to lose weight over the holidays -- wouldn't that be great?

Anonymous said...

wow. just, wow - and more sisterly coincidences...I have the exact same stomach. Back in the day I used to become absolutely frail when having boy trouble! But anyway, Christmas afternoon is such a weird between presents and dinner, that lull - ugh, it's awful. No amount of exercise or game-playing or movie watching can cut it, either.

litlove said...

My son always used to suffer a kind of mini-death after all the presents had been opened. After that huge anticipation, nothing real could match up to it. Fortunately he's growing up now, and finding a way of managing excitement and reality. I used to be sick every Christmas Eve until, age 7, I clamped my teeth together all night and got through it. Now that I have to buy Christmas, I am less enamoured of the whole thing.

Ian said...

Hi Emily,
This should be interesting. If you were five then I had just turned three so my memory is even less reliable. I'm amazed that I can remember anything about being three.But here's what I've got. I remember it as a jumbo jet, not a helicopter, but all the other details seem accurate to me.I seem to remember being convinced that the plane must fly, and crashing it to the grounds literally minutes after I unwrapped it. Don't worry, though, no scramble for the plane occured in my recollection, allthough I do seem to remember that you were right there when the tragedy happened.

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, yes. Someone needs to invent something that keeps calories from counting from Nov. 15th - Jan 15th.

Court, one year after a particularly bad breakup, I went to visit my family, and my sister commented, "Gee, I wish I could have a guy cheat on me if it would make me THAT skinny!" And, yes, that lull is dreadful.

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, yes, when you're the one responsible for it all, it kind of loses its thrill, doesn't it?

Dante, maybe I'm confusing the jet plane with a helicoptor you got when we went to England that summer? I don't know. Shows what an odd thing memory is, and how we really ought to do that joint blog we talked about.