The first Christmas I can remember was in 1955. I was three years old. It's one of my earliest childhood memories. I don't remember a lot about that Christmas now almost sixty years later of course, but I do remember the present I received that year. We lived in a little three room house on Otsego Street in Havre de Grace, Maryland.
The house still stands and is still occupied today. I had my daughter take a photo of me by the house this year on my birthday. I remember the dalmatian dog that was my first pet when we lived in this house. I can remember the kitchen of the house and how it looked. I don't remember much of anything else about the house. But I do have my first Christmas memory. I received a play set of pots and pans for Christmas. I am not sure why my parents bought me pots and pans. Maybe I played with my mother's pot and pans in the kitchen. Maybe I asked for them. I don't know. But I do know my parents did not buy me any toy guns that year, or toy trucks, or plastic cowboys and Indians. They had Santa bring me pots and pans. I can remember the box they came in and how excited I was opening the box on Christmas morning. Or was it really Christmas morning? This first wonderful Christmas memory of mine was not the best Christmas for my parents. My father's mother died from uterine cancer on Christmas Eve this same year. So I am somewhat sure that if I did actually open up the box of pots and pans on Christmas morning my father was not there to see me open the gift. Most likely they celebrated Christmas morning with me a few days after Christmas, or perhaps a few days before if they knew my grandmothers death was near.
I don't remember anything about my grandmother's death or funeral. At the age of three I am sure my parent's protected me from seeing the sorrow and the grief they were going through. But they must have made that Christmas special for me any way because I still remember the gift and the joy I had opening it that Christmas morning.
One of my least favorite Christmas memories is the Christmas the year my ex wife and I were in the midst of divorcing. We were still living in our house but we were not living together. We lived in separate rooms and led separate lives. But when you have small children you still have to put on a happy face especially on Christmas morning. I remember not wanting to exchange gifts with my ex wife that year because it all would have been a lie. I talked to my mother about it and how difficult it was trying to put on a show for Christmas. She told me there were many years when she and my father had put on shows for Christmas for my sister and I even when their hearts were not in it. She never went into specifics or shared any stories of individual bad Christmas's for them. But she did ask me if I remembered any childhood Christmas's when we were not all happy. And I did not.
To my knowledge my daughter never knew that would be our last Christmas together as a family. I can remember watching them opening their gifts that year and laughing with them as they opened them. And I can remember feeling like the worst parent in the world that year. I remember holding back my tears and putting on a smile much the way my parents did that year my grandmother died on Christmas Eve. But their smiles were worth the price. They were happy that morning and have carried with them the memory of one last happy Christmas together with their parents.
We have had good and bad Christmas's since that Christmas. Their mother and I have worked through our hurts and differences and are better friends now than when we were married. They both have their own homes now and their own trees and are making their own memories each year. And there is still something magical having them in my house on Christmas morning opening gifts, laughing and taking photos each year . Christmas memories. I would not trade one of them.