Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas goodies

I survived Christmas with my family. I survived the day at work (with some help from the coffee paraphernalia I received as gifts). And I am now happily relaxing on the couch, watching college football with my sweet pup curled up next to me. I am warm in my new comfy sweater and t-shirt combo. In the kitchen, 8 new bottles of delightful white wine are chilling in my sparkling new wine cooler. I fed myself well with a flank steak, seasoned with one of the meat rubs included in the large package from my cousins. I have just finished reading the one and only book I unwrapped on Christmas Day, a record low for me. (The book was "Testimony" by Anita Shreve. Not her best, perhaps, but like all of her books, eminently readable and compelling.)

I am washing my sheets so I can make up my bed with my brand new flannel comforter set, so I will be perfectly warm and cozy as I sleep tonight. Especially in my new pajamas, flannel pants and a cotton, long-sleeved shirt -- just the perfect combo for maximum comfort. Tomorrow, I will not wear the charming Ann Taylor suit my sister bought for me (on clearance, so she got it for a steal) nor can I wear the cute pants my mom bought me that haven't yet been shortened, but I have planned my outfit so I can wear the fabulous new coat I got.

So I got lots of good stuff for Christmas and I enjoy it all. We way overdo the gift-giving in my family, but I think it really is for the right reason. We enjoy picking out good gifts for each other and we can't often resist the temptation to buy one more thing because that sweater really looks like something Mom would like or Dad just has to have this book.

But just in case some of you still think I sound like a terrible, materialistic princess, let me tell you about the best gift I got. In my early life, Dad liked to take home movies. Once upon a time, we would watch them on occasion, but the camera died in 1984 and I don't remember the projector making the move when we moved in 1987. This year, Dad pulled all those old home movies out and had them all transferred onto dvds. We all sat down the day after Christmas to watch as a family and I've watched them once more on my own.

Some of these old movies I vaguely remembered, but there were some I had never seen before. First were clips of my dad at 3 and my aunt as a baby, with my very young grandparents. Then came my sister as a baby, with conclusive proof that the dog we had as little girls really didn't hate her. She has always believed Punky thought of her as the evil intruder, but in these movies, Punky is always licking my sister. And Punky never snapped at her, not even when the little one year-old took the dog's rawhide away as the dog was chewing on it. Punky simply waited a minute or two and then took it back when she had her chance.

We also now have visual proof that my mom, who does not much like little kids and who has always seemed a little unnatural when interacting with babies, was very natural in her displays of affection towards us. She has always been a great mom and I certainly never questioned her love for us, but I always kind of wondered if maybe she wasn't a little relieved when we got older and she didn't have to deal with toddlers anymore. But now I've actually seen her feeding us, playing with us, and picking us up whenever we demanded. (Of course, I'm a second child, so naturally there's a lot more footage of her doing these things with my sister. Second children always get the shaft when it comes to memorializing their development on film.)

We also now have available to us anytime we want to see it a short snippet of our much-beloved dog, Coco. Coco was adopted as a brand-new puppy when I was 9, just a few weeks after Punky was put to sleep. Coco belonged not just to my parents, as we always felt Punky had, but to all of us. She was a bichon frise, but don't dare try to write her off as an annoying yippy dog. She was the sweetest, most loving dog ever and no one who ever met her could resist her. She died over 10 years ago and I have my own sweet pup now, but just being able to see her running around our old backyard brings tears to my eyes.

But even that is not my favorite part of the DVD. My very favorite part is from my first Christmas. All four grandparents are present for the holiday. The camera, run by my dad, mostly followed my more-interesting 4 year-old sister, but he also showed me as my dad's mother handed me off to my mom's father. That grandfather, Grandpa R., died shortly after Coco did. He had suffered from MS since 1943, so all my life he had difficulty getting around, which just got worse as I grew up. I first remember him using a cane, but then he had to switch to a walker, and then a wheelchair. He didn't go out with us much, even to eat dinner. He certainly never took me to a basketball or football game, though we watched lots of them on t.v. Nor could he ever get down on the floor and play with us the way our other grandpa did. Because of his weak leg, it was hard for him even to hold us on his lap, so the only physical contact I ever really remember with him was lying next to him on his bed while watching sports and hugging him as he sat and we stood in front of him. But in this video, I can now see him holding me. And he's not just holding me while he's talking to the other adults. While he's holding me, I am the only thing getting any of his attention. He's looking down at me the whole time, even while the camera follows my more active sister. In the background, he is constantly talking to me and tickling me. I never doubted that he loved me, that his granddaughters were the light of his life, or that he was bursting with pride over our accomplishments. But this short little scene is proof that, when he could, he did give us the sort of physical affection little kids crave from their grandparents. It also reminded me how very lucky we were to have had him for as long as we did.

So that was my favorite Christmas gift. Not any fancy gadget or dvds or clothes. But I might well be wearing my cozy Irish sweater and drinking a glass of perfectly chilled wine the next time I watch any of it.

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