In thinking about a Christmas memory, several come to mind. I remember my mother making us listen to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol via 78 rpm recordings each Christmas Eve, a story that should have been more interesting than it was. Of course, on Christmas Eve, pretty much nothing was as interesting as looking for Santa's feet landing on our hearth followed by all the presents I'd asked for and was confident I deserved.
I also remember another Christmas Eve when my brother set his bed on fire. Too nerdy to smoke and too smart to play with matches, Sandy decided to try to lull his excited self to sleep by reading under the covers while I slept in the next bed, having had to give up my room to Aunt Susie for the holidays. He took the shade off the lamp before he entered his private reading fort, one that unfortunately turned out to be combustible when the bare bulb met the cotton sheet. However, it seems that there wasn’t too much of a conflagration as I slept through the entire emergency. From then on, our holiday tradition was to open presents on Christmas Eve to keep my dumb-ass brother from burning the house down.
A Christmas Day memory I have is one that happened a bit later. It was 1964, I think, which made me 14, a difficult age for the holidays, too old to play with the toys Santa had brought me and too young to borrow the family car to escape from the heat produced by too much food and too many relatives. I had already received all the compliments I was going to get about how pretty I looked in my new Christmas sweater and I couldn’t watch TV because Uncle Walter was sitting in front of the television set nursing his highball. When the phone rang and my new friend, who’d just recently moved to Savannah, bemoaned her similar circumstances, we decided to get together and take a walk around the beautiful island that was our home. We met up by her house and agreed to walk down by the bluff, a gorgeous spot adorned with moss-hung oaks, genteel old homes, and quaint river docks. I wore my Christmas sweater and she wore her new navy pea coat, something I immediately added to my upcoming birthday wish list. My new friend’s name was Allison and I’d been looking for her for a quite a while, even though I hadn’t known it. I’d skipped a grade in junior high and had been at loose ends ever since, as the kids I’d played with my entire life were now a year behind me in school and we no longer seemed to have much in common.
Beginning with that Christmas walk, it didn’t take long at all for Allison and me to bind our friendship through our outlandish senses of humor, our budding liberal views, and our love for saddle oxfords. We went on to become college room-mates, bridesmaids in each others' weddings, and, years later, that same other was right there when each of our marriages ended. And then, just a few years ago, fate would intervene once again when we both had the opportunity to move to Atlanta around the same time.
And so, forty-six Christmases later, my new friend is now my old friend. Although I never got my pea coat and we no longer yearn for saddle oxfords, which, by the way, just might now work wonders in covering our bunions and veiny feet, we are still pretty darned silly and annoyingly liberal. Just ask anybody.
Still friends (and silly) after all these years.