Thursday, March 29, 2012

Birthday Series #14 - I am a presents-at-breakfast person

Yes, as a child I loved seeing my presents and my cake as soon as I stumbled out of bed and down the short hall to the kitchen. Morning is my smart time – I don’t get up as early as I used to but I go to bed later too (OK that was a bald-faced lie…). I wake up with a complete appetite, not just a breakfast appetite – even spicy greasy entrĂ©e leftovers sound good…or birthday cake.

We never cut the childhood cakes at breakfast (no, we ate a healthy breakfast of processed white-bread toast and cereal) but I could look at it and smell it, and our supper time was not so late in the evening, anyway. Funny but I have no idea when it was. Maybe it was late, I think we waited on my dad to come home from work – although he often did more work after he ate his third meal of the day, if a customer called, or bills/paperwork were overdue. In earlier years we had no TV so I don’t have that frame of reference to remember meals or bedtime.

The cake was saved for supper, but we didn’t have to wait for our birthday gifts!, or our Christmas gifts either. I always thought that was so modern – thinking of Mother – get it over with, everyone is focused on what’s under the tree anyway. Then you can thoroughly play with the toys on Christmas Day. Even most of our religious observance was on Christmas Eve – reading the Christmas story, reflecting on the manger scene Mother spent years painstakingly gluing a roof of pine needles for (we had a lot of pine trees in that geography). I’m pretty sure it was still unfinished when she died – she never worked on it any other season, would get it out in December and then so many other December activities would get in the way. We always did Advent candles, and I think there is one you light on Christmas Day but I remember more vividly the Christmas Eve candle and song…and of course the earlier candles, songs and verses when the PRESENTS seem so far away and Christmas religion is all there is.

Rather than sneak gifts out while we were asleep, my parents somehow did it while we were at Christmas Eve service, or taking the long way home (even in our tiny town, LOL) to look at Christmas lights. My memory is of all of us including parents being in the car at the same time but that can’t be right, maybe a parent made an excuse that I never saw through to stay home or they asked my dad’s parents, who lived nearby, to help.

Do the many birthday gifts or the Christmas Eve opening of gifts (a long-obsolete Scholl tradition, by the way, my stepmom’s family not only waits till Christmas Day but usually makes the kids wait until a late lunch is not only consumed but also cleaned up) have anything to do with my buy-it-now, deliver it ASAP needs? For example, Craig (not that he is all things normal and I am all things compulsive, although that’s sort of right) enjoys planning for purchases and usually doesn’t mind waiting for them. Whereas every cell of me craves NOW!

Mother actually held back a few items for each of us to open on later days than Christmas Eve, so we wouldn’t get glutted first and fussy later. And sometimes we would get gifts or clothes weeks later, if she had misplaced them in her closet pile of crumpled gray-blue Foley’s bags, which spilled out into the room at Christmas.

Things were bought on sale all year and saved in the blue paper bags for birthdays, Easter and Christmas – no fancy storage systems for her – and you can see how problems might occur with timely access.

Maybe it’s a writing-while-on-Chardonnay false insight but I could view that example, the delayed gifts – she only made me wait for extra gifts that I didn’t know I was getting – as a partial explanation for why I didn’t mature in the delayed gratification category. As long as this feels like there is some truth to it, I will try to go with it – because the loss of a mother remains a difficult thing, and I can always use more explanations for my compulsive behaviors.

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