What I Miss About Christmas

posted Dec 24, 2011, 10:29 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Dec 24, 2011, 10:37 AM ]

Christmas as I knew it growing up hasn't existed for me since 2001. That was the last Christmas we had in Denville (New Jersey) before my parents moved back to Illinois the following March.

Every Christmas since then has been different and in the days leading up to Christmas 2011, I've been reminded of those days gone by moreso now than ever before. 

Though we mocked its omnipresence, I miss when It's a Wonderful Life ran incessantly on any number of TV channels. 

Then NBC ruined Christmas by purchasing the rights to the holiday classic and attempting to make it an event by only showing it once or twice a year. They should have just left it well enough alone. And it should never have been made available on home video or DVD.

Granted, the picture quality was far superior but there was always something about not knowing exactly which window of the Sycamore place Mary threw that rock. 

My father established a tradition of buying a four-pack of Cinnabons on Christmas Eve, hiding them and then waking up Christmas morning to warm them up and serve them with hot chocolate. It didn't matter if we had any place to go or not, that is how we started our day.

 I couldn't find the full version of this Mary Katherine Gallagher sketch on the YouTube but it was always a favorite of mine. Rosie O'Donnell was the host of this 1996 episode and Whitney Houston, promoting The Preacher's Wife, was the musical guest. That film's director, Penny Marshall, was also featured in this sketch as an older nun.

Christmas 1996 sticks out in mind for some reason. I remember going to see The Preacher's Wife at Headquarter's Plaza in Morristown with my best friend Jasper. I remember participating in Operation Love at the church, helping put food packages together for needy families and helping deliver them.

One delivery wasn't too far from where I lived. The recipient was a recent widow who was waiting for her daughter and granddaughter to come by. She and I chatted for about an hour. I don't remember her name and her face is a bit fuzzy but I do remember how much happier she was for the company than even for the food. 

Growing up in a small town, there weren't too many places to go. We had the Alexis and Rockaway diners, Easy Video and the Rockaway Mall. Even as a teenager, kids and younger teens annoyed me so I more or less hated going to the mall.

Plus I hated to shop. I still do. Except for food. I like food shopping.

During my college years, I always waited until the last minute to shop -- largely out of necessity. My finals seemed to stretch further into Christmas week than other people so I didn't usually get home for break until the 21st or the 22nd. I didn't want to drag a bunch of presents home with my luggage and laundry so that is when I'd start my Christmas shopping. It would all be done at the mall and it would all be done within a couple of hours.

This was before I discovered the brilliance of GIFT CARDS. I've never been a great gifter.

It was always a bit trippy to come home, go to the mall and see people from high school that I hadn't really kept up with after graduation. Even in those early post-graduate years, there was an air of maturity we all seemed to have. I remember running into a couple of former classmates and being genuinely glad to see them. Either that or I was just genuinely glad that I had something more to say than "I still work at..."

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I spent a lot of time here. It was the seafood market/restaurant I worked at in high school and throughout college. Christmas Eve was the busiest day of the year and it was packed from open to close. In fact, there was a line out front even before we opened.

We took holiday orders for a couple weeks leading up to Christmas Eve and spent the night before filling orders after hours until about midnight or 1am -- with a break for dinner of course.

Throughout the night of the 23rd and Christmas Eve, holiday music would play over the radio. I specifically remember "This is Christmas" by John Lennon and "The Hanukkah Song" by Adam Sandler playing repeatedly.

I looked forward to hearing them each time because they both put a smile on my face for very different reasons and I could hear them throughout the store no matter what I was doing.

After we closed on Christmas Eve, I'd go home reeking like fish to a house full of family and friends.

I've been in a very lengthy transitional period between the holiday traditions of my upbringing and creating my own. Right now I've settled on just waiting for January but that's no way to spend the last two months of any given year. I want to feel the magic again and for the first time in several years, I believe I will.

The last five or six years have been largely unstable as I moved back and forth between the east coast and the west coast in search of the life I've always wanted to lead. I'm close. I'm finally pursuing that life. I'm two-thirds of the way there. 2012 is going to be that year where I finally achieve that life and establish some stability for myself in this increasingly more unstable world. 

I don't know who this guy is but he's on the cover of the JCPenney Christmas catalog and he came in the mail addressed to me. I asked Santa to bring him to me for Christmas.

If he's tall enough and old enough, he might make a great Chris. I'd love for him to appear at my doorstep tied in a big red bow. Perhaps he can help rekindle some of that holiday magic I lost.

I'm just sayin'.