Panorama of San Bernardino

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Mantz Christmas Story

It is Christmas Eve and I am thinking of Christmases long, long ago.  Maybe it was because we watched "Disney On Ice" and it reminded me of childhood.  Maybe it's all the Christmas movies. 

Christmas reminds me of waking up early to watch "The Little Rascals" on KTLA Channel Five.  Christmas reminds me of my dad's homemade donuts.  Take Pillsbury biscuit dough from the twist pop can and fry the rounds in Canola oil and then roll them in sugar, must eat hot.  Christmas reminds me of my sisters.

We were not well off, but my mom and dad always loaded the tree with presents.  The Christmas paper flew in the air on Christmas morning like colorful planes.  I asked my mom if she remembered the Barbie Dreamhouse they got us one year.  I must have been about six or seven and my sisters and I wanted it bad, we wanted it almost as much as the little boy in "A Christmas Story" wanted a Red Ryder BB gun ("You'll shoot your eye out!").

The 1970's was still an era of imagination.  The Barbie Dreamhouse had an elevator which was actually a box on a string that you pulled to take Barbie upstairs.  The Dreamhouse must have cost one hundred dollars and my parents tricked us and we thought it wasn't going to happen that year.  When we woke up and saw the building under paper we knew.  We screamed and yelled with joy and I can remember being the first one to pull the string.  "I'm the oldest," I reasoned to my sisters.  Annie was too young to argue and Jackie accepted the fact with resignation.

I wish I could get that excited about anything as an adult.

Not all Christmases were full of surprises.  One Christmas, we decided we would have Christmas a week early.  My sisters and I searched and searched for the Christmas presents and finally found them in the attic, all wrapped up.  My mom was not the neatest wrapper so we knew it would be no problem to open them and rewrap them. 

The fantasy is always better than the reality and our faces fell as we finished opening all our presents.  We knew we had ruined something beautiful.  On Christmas morning, we did our best to act surprised.  I always thought my parents knew, but they didn't. 

Years later, we told my mom about it.  My mom said that she was glad my dad hadn't known because my dad was big on surprises.  My dad would come home from work and say, "Pick a hand".  In one hand would be a Big Hunk taffy bar (preferred by me) and in the other hand a Milky Way (preferred by Jackie).

Christmas time also reminds me of seeing my dad's grey face in the emergency room right before Christmas five years ago.  We didn't know it at the time, but he would be dead less than a month later.

I shopped at the Rite Aid next to the hospital for him that Christmas and bought him a mini DVD player and some movies for him to watch in his bed on the Oncology floor.  

We got the news right around Christmas that my dad could go home on hospice.  I spent the two weeks after Christmas taking care of my father.  I tried to make him eat although he wasn't hungry.  By that time, he had lost almost seventy-five pounds.  I watched him sleep.

I try not to remember the day he died and how awful that day was. I try not to remember how it felt to tell the paramedics to stop their efforts and how hard it was to let him go.

Instead, I remember how my dad decorated the house for Christmas.  Some people are subtle with an all white or blue look.  My dad was the opposite, he went for the gusto with rainbow lights in the largest size bulb he could find.  He placed lights around the windows and on all the shrubs and trees.  Our house resembled a mini Vegas.

I remember how he decorated the Christmas tree with tinsel.  He threw it on the tree with a shout while we all sighed with displeasure.  We wanted garland not tinsel.  I remember the musical bird he hid in the tree that chirped and sang.

I remember our childhood games of Rummy and how my dad slapped his hand down on the table with a thud when one of us girls committed the grievous error of discarding a playable card.

I remember how my dad cooked breakfast: fried bologna and eggs or pancakes with jelly inside.

If I close my eyes and concentrate hard enough, I can remember my dad dressed up in a Santa suit when I was little. 

And my Barbie Dreamhouse.

No comments:

Post a Comment