Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas is for Kids

According to the calendar, December 21 is the longest night of the year. But when we were growing up, December 24 always felt like the longest night.

What kid can sleep on the night before Christmas?

On Christmas Eve, my brother and I were not nestled all snug in our beds while visions of sugar plums.... Instead, we sat on our knees in front of our bedroom window, scraping ice off the pane with our fingernails, in order to watch our neighbors across the street open their presents. They were Christmas-Eve-Gift-Openers. We were Christmas-Morning-Openers, so had to wait all night before we could go downstairs and see what lay under our own tree. But for about an hour on Christmas Eve we could live vicariously through the kids across the street, seen merrily tearing open gift wrapping in their living room window. My brother and I still vividly remember the youngest daughter in that family walking back and forth in front of their window pushing a doll carriage that she’d just received as a present.

Downstairs our parents were putting the finishing touches on our Christmas -- stacking gifts under the tree and stuffing stockings. Upstairs we watched the neighbors until their lights went off, then we’d get into bed and toss and turn and complain that we were still WIDE AWAKE and would never, ever fall asleep. The night seemed to last forever.

Of course nothing really lasts forever, does it?

The little girl with the doll carriage is now over forty and has three kids of her own. (I wonder if they open gifts on Christmas Eve?)

And here it is Christmas Eve and -- instead of tossing and turning while my parents fill our stockings -- I’m up in the middle of the night filling stockings for my parents:

A little misshapen, aren’t they? Back in the day, my folks knew how to fill stockings just right -- from the orange in the toe all way up to the gifts peeking over the top. Whenever I try to fill a Christmas stocking, it looks boxy and stretched and saggy.

Same goes for gift wrapping. The presents we received as kids were smoothly covered in beautiful paper and held together with small, unobtrusive pieces of tape. The edges were tucked in as neatly as “hospital corners” on a bedsheet. They were adorned by bows and ribbons and special nametags.

I have no skill at giftwrapping. My packages at invariably lumpy and held together with yards of tape:

I’ve never quite gotten the hang of being an adult.

Though I think that I have a much more grown-up view of Christmas these days. Instead of laying awake all night, greedily wondering what presents I'm going to receive in the morning, I'm now much more excited about the gifts I'm going to give.

However, I guess I can’t congratulate myself too much on my “adult attitude” after what happened on Wednesday.

That was my last day of work until after the holidays. The entire university library system will be closed until January 4, 2010. Of course I was looking forward to having eleven days off. Celebrating the holidays. Seeing relatives. Staying up late every night. Sleeping in every morning. Maybe catching a couple movies. And of course reading. But by noon on Wednesday I started getting nervous. The library was about to shut down for nearly two weeks! What if I ran out of books to read?

Which is why I ran to the stacks and quickly began pulling books to read over the holiday break.

Okay, if you were me, how many books would you have borrowed?



How about eleven -- one for each day of vacation?

Yeah, those are all good guesses.

But was there really any valid reason I needed to check out THIRTY books from the library on Wednesday?

I’ll probably never get around to reading half of them. Especially since I’m not a very fast reader. And I already have stacks of new unread books at home:

That is just a very small section of a long row of books which sit on my bedroom floor -- double parked! Yes, there’s another entire row behind them.

Not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of books that sit on my shelves -- some completely unread, others read and loved and just waiting to be read again.

THIRTY library books? I don’t know what gets into me sometimes.

Maybe it has to do with the holiday season. As I grow older, I see how life changes from Christmas to Christmas. One minute a little girl is pushing a doll carriage on Christmas Eve; a few years later she has kids of her own. One minute your parents are filling a stocking with surprises for you; a few years later you are filling lumpy, bumpy, misshapen stockings for your elderly parents. Seeing these changes, you realize the future isn’t infinite. There are a limited number of Christmases to come, a limited number of books I’ll ever get to read. So I’ve become a “greedy reader” -- tossing and turning my way through life, desperately reaching for all the books I still want to read...yet increasingly aware that there may not be time to get to every one.

Wishing everyone who reads this blog a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with lots of books...and lots of time to read them.


P. J. Grath said...

Well, now you have frustrated most of your readers by not listing the 30 books you checked out. I did recognize, happily, the third in Conrad Richter's AWAKENING LAND trilogy, but what are all the rest? Merry Christmas, happy reading!

Carm said...

I couldn't have said it better! It's like you are reading my mind, instead of your many books. I, too, have a mountain of library books an entire bookshelf and then some of unread books and a Christmas Vacation commitment to read 12 books, one for each day I have off... I may have bitten off more than I can chew since I'm three days in and haven't completed one. Happy reading, friend!

grrlpup said...

My in-laws have an excellent tradition: the Christmas Eve Book. Everyone gets a book on their plate at dinnertime Christmas Eve, to help get them through til Christmas morning.

Now that everyone's grown up, the books are often beautiful picture books that won't last an hour. And sometimes people don't drop what they're already reading, but set aside the Christmas Eve book for later. Such is adulthood, I guess. :)

Unknown said...

I love it! Only true readers can learn about you checking out 30 books to last you for 11 days when you already have plenty of untouched reading material at home and not think you're nuts. Because I think it makes perfect sense!
I also think you're right - there are only so many Christmases left, better get to reading!

Sandy D. said...

Checking out 30 for 11 days isn't that weird - what if you're not in the mood for 10 or so of the ones you checked out? Then you'll still have 20 left!

That's my excuse for checking out too many, anyway.

Mama Librarian said...

I am perpetually guilty of owning more books that I haven't read than those I have read. And I have more books checked out from the library than anyone I know... I think it has topped 250. You're in good company!

Bybee said...

30 books...a perfectly normal response to the library being closed for almost two weeks!
Happy New Year! I'm glad I discovered your blog in 2009!

Anonymous said...

I have stacks of ARCs waiting to be read, but what did I do on Christmas Eve? Went to my favorite (independent) bookstore to buy some books that I knew I would like- because ARCs can be a c---shoot, and for the holiday I wanted to make sure to have books that I knew I wanted to read. Merry, merry.
Chris in NY

Anonymous said...

Our Librarian's Read Challenge starts (at midnight!) January first, so that was my excuse for having an enormous pile of J/YA books ready and waiting. I'm trying to read some of the adult books before I read nothing but J/YA for two months.
No, the library isn't closed. Yes, I'm scheduled to work. Yes, I have a huge pile of unread J/YA sitting around. The worst of it is... I sometimes check out books because they will be handier in my library pile than trying to find my own copies which could be, oh, just anywhere(sigh).
Jeanne K.
word verification: trial. yes, indeed.