Monday, December 12, 2011

An Xmas Memory

I guess a lot of people tend to think about the people they've lost when the holidays come around. For whatever reason--I'm in a depressed mood, I think--I've been thinking tonight about my late sister Ellen. A big part of the fun of Christmas for me in the 90s was that I had two half-sisters who were experiencing their childhood Christmases, and getting to see it through their eyes was just wonderful.


On her first or second Christmas, I remember Ellen messing with the presents. Like any kid, she was fascinated by the boxes and the wrapping paper and wanted to investigate. I was amazed and proud at the lengths she'd go to just to deceive me. I remember one time, pacifier in her mouth, she kept trying to hobble over to the presents, towards one very big box in particular. It was my job on this particular afternoon to herd her away from those things; and she learned quickly that she wasn't supposed to be playing with them. You'd just have to say her name firmly, and she'd hobble off and, when my attention went back to the TV, she'd head back. What really got me--like I said, amazed and proud--is that once she started playing with her toys, batting around something that was hanging. I looked over at her, and she was craftily heading towards the big box. I realized she'd actually set the toys in motion so I'd hear them and think she was playing with her toys. "Ellen," I warned. She almost jumped, surprised and guilty. Later, I laughed at it, but I couldn't undermine my Big Brother authority in front of her.

Ellen loved Christmas, like most children who get brought up in it. I always wanted to make it special for her, but I've never been good with money or even made very much, so I always felt guilty that I couldn't really ever do anything for her--or anyone else--that I wanted. I think that guilt is part of the reason that I can't enjoy being around my family on Christmas. It's just too much for me.

When Ellen was a little older, around 3 or 4, she was really into Santa Claus. She would get too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve, which was something that I'd long since outgrown. You practically had to lock her in her room so that Dad could get to leaving out the presents from Santa. Back then, I'd spend the night of Christmas Eve at my Dad's and wake up with my sisters on Christmas morning. I remember groggily waking up one morning, very quiet, and just enjoying being half-asleep. Because my door didn't close all the way--it had to be latched--I could hear whatever was going on in the main rooms. So I heard Ellen's door open and her joyous gasp when she saw the presents. I figured she'd look around for a while, but instead I heard her thumping footsteps running for my door, and she knocked excitedly, calling me to come out and see. That'll always be one of my favorite Christmas memories; that she wanted me, her brother and her godfather, to be the first one up with her on Christmas morning.

She got so into Santa Claus, and I remember when she was about 9 or 10 she started looking up information on Santa in books and was going to "scientifically prove" that Santa Claus was an elaborate ruse. My Dad had signed her up for one of those services where you get a phone call from "Santa," and she was convinced it was actually my Dad. I don't know what happened with that, but I thought it was very cute.

I think Ellen dying in 2006 is a big part of what muted Christmas with my family. I feel guilt from that, too. For not seeing her enough in the last years of her life. I feel unwelcome in places now.

But when she was here, she made those Christmases special. I just really miss her today. And everyday, but for some reason especially today.

4 comments:

Dr. Monkey Hussein Monkerstein said...

Thanks for sharing a sweet memory of your sister. I wish I had more memories of my late sister Linda than I do.

Roger Owen Green said...

Yeah, my first Xmas w/out my mom. Merry Christmas indeed.

Caffeinated Joe said...

Sorry for your loss, it never feels better. But a better way to celebrate her would be to celebrate Christmas for her, since she loved it so. Take care!

DrGoat said...

Great of you to share. I've lost both of my parents and two beloved cats in the last ten years. The memories just become sweeter cause the grief is assuaged bt time, hopefully.