There is no holiday that takes us back in time like Christmas.
Each Christmas gives us a memory to hold on to. Perhaps it was joyous, the first and only year the family trekked into the woods to level a tree, which made dressing it up glitteringly in the living room a special occasion.
You were 11 years old, or was it 9? It’s a bit hazy, but chopping the tree, in the cold, in the snow, you never forget.
Or maybe it was your first Christmas without a loved one, the absence felt deeply. It was still Christmas, but it felt a little hollow. Was it 1977, ’78? Christmases, like birthdays, are the calendars of our lives.
Do you have an all-time favorite Christmas gift?
Being a twin, I pretty much always got what my brother Laurie got, whether it was matching sweaters (we weren’t thrilled) or a baseball glove (oh happy days!). It was the sane way to avoid jealousy and, worse, fist fights.
But, we were twins, and sibling rivals, so fist fights were unavoidable. One year our older brother Michael, with good intentions, bought Laurie and me boxing gloves for Christmas. Can you smell trouble brewing?
I can’t remember precisely how old we were. I’d guess around 10. A speed bag came with the gloves. We hooked up the bag to the ceiling in the cellar. Little did we know it was just below the kitchen on the next floor where my mother, Giuseppina, seemed to spend most of her life, with eight mouths to feed.
When Laurie or I battered the speed bag, it made a jolting sound like the 6:15 train was passing by. Except the reverberation was felt under my mother’s feet. House rule No. 1: When an Italian mother from the old country cooks, it’s dangerous to interrupt the process.
So Laurie and I took the boxing gloves outside.
In the summertime, we would box each other in the backyard. We really went at it. The neighborhood kids loved it, even though they had difficulty telling us apart. They had to figure out that Laurie was right-handed and I was a southpaw.
Those boxing gloves were a favorite Christmas gift for us. We became big boxing fans. We got it from our dad, Leonardo, an Italian immigrant who didn’t understand American sports. Boxing was different. It wasn’t burdened by intricate rules. We watched TV fights with our dad. My mother never watched.
All the Christmas shopping at this address is done by my wife, Mary Anne. What a blessing! She once told me, “You have an aversion to shopping that’s profound.” It’s true.
Malls in general freak me out. During the holidays, forget it. Ninety minutes trying to find a parking space is time you’ll never get back. Yet there was some guilt in not getting Mary Anne anything on my own. One Christmas I said, “Come on, let me try.” She made out a list and said, “Give this to the saleslady at Estee Lauder.” That’s how it went for years.
Now we’ve simplified it even more. She says, “Just give me cash.” What a relief.
We have one grandchild, 7-year-old Savannah. She’s the centerpiece of our Christmas gift-buying. Mary Anne takes care of it, but getting stuff for Savannah is the one concession I make to tagging along. Besides, I’m excellent at holding a bag at the American Girl doll store.
So here comes another Christmas seeking a place in our hearts and minds, creating its own story.
Lenny Megliola can be reached at lennymegs41@gmail.