There are first Christmases with children – the ones where, generally speaking, said child is too young to care about much more than playing with wrapping paper and boxes or, more accurately, eating wrapping paper and boxes…
And then there are First Christmases with children – usually the next Christmas after the very first, when the basics of Santa, Christmas and the notion of presents are starting to really come together and form a vivid picture in the child’s mind.
The very first Christmases are great. It marks a turning point in the family dynamic and, frankly, the only protest received when dressing the baby up in a reindeer onesie, complete with antlered hood, comes from other, more sympathetic adult family members than you.
But the second First Christmas is something I recently learned is to be cherished and laughed at. A lot.
It might have been the pie-plate eyed wonderment of the 20-month old offspring when she first saw all of the gaily wrapped gifties under the tree. More likely, it was her ear piercing shriek of, “SANTA!” as she barreled towards the present wonderland before her. (As an aside, she met Santa at a kid’s Christmas party a couple of weeks prior and he gave her a present. Santa holds a very special place in her heart now, as has been evidenced by her delight in seeing his likeness everywhere and making a valiant attempt to kiss every single one. She also knows damn well what presents are now, thanks to the Fat Man Impersonator.)
In all honesty though, it was probably, actually that moment when, unwrapping a gift from her Oma and Opa, she showed her truest, most toddlerish colors to-date. It was a Thomas the Train bag that she could use as a purse. Yes, recently, she’s taken to occasionally requiring her purse (a plush lamb Easter basket whose sole “stepping out” must-have item is a rubber squeaky lobster. Toddlers are weird.) when we go out. So, knowing this, and knowing her love of all things “Toss Twain”, my mother, her Oma, got her a Thomas “purse”.
She squealed, “TOSS TWAIN!!” when she unwrapped the bag. Then, she opened the bag and and looked in, only to find it empty. To verify it’s emptiness, she turned it upside down and shook it, then peered up into the still empty, unyielding-of-anything-remotely-fun-bag. With a faint scowl, she tossed it over her shoulder and declared it “Bwoken”. And then moved on the next gift.
I couldn’t help it. I just started laughing. I tried to salvage the moment of Thomas Happiness by showing her that it could be a purse, but by then, she had discovered that Santa brought her a box of art supplies and was eagerly trying to open it, demanding that she be allowed to “door” (which is, of course, “draw”). The moment was lost for poor Thomas and part of me was wondering just where she’d learned to expect more from a bag. After all, I like to think that neither her father nor myself are that greedy or materialistic. Really. We can’t afford to be!
Later that day, we were looking at pictures of her very first Christmas when she was 9 months old and comparing those to the images captured that morning, from this First Christmas. I was struck by just how much she had changed in one year. She’s gone from being a baby to being not such a baby; from showing no discernible interests in presents because the lights on the tree were so much more fascinating, to tearing into everything under the tree and leaving the house a colorful mess.
I didn’t bother with a Christmas dress this year. I tried it on her very first Christmas and she got mad because it was all satin and tulle and hindered her walking progress. This year, unbeknownst to her, her biggest gift was me allowing her to stay in her pajamas until after her nap, just before our guests came over for dinner. When I did dress her, it was in comfortable, every day clothes.
In all though, this Christmas seemed more vivid and full of excitement than the last. Granted, I missed my family this year, but the memories seared into my brain already from her first, call it coherent, cognizant, cogent, aware Christmas will last my lifetime.