Every Christmas, we did not come downstairs until we heard the first song on the record player, Joy to the World! Then, and only then, did we have permission to bound down the steps. It was a tradition. That Christmas, when we pushed open the stair door and bounded into the dining room, Mama told us to go into the kitchen. [Click on this link to hear how this tradition came to be.]
Mama’s kitchen was always warm. The floor was warm to our feet because water pipes under the door to the bakery in the next room kept the floor warm, even in the winter. Mama’s kitchen was a happy place to be.
Window panes held designs from Jack Frost on the insides of the loosely-sealed panes, but the floor was warm. A simple breakfast was served on the table with siblings scootching along a bench to make room for one more, but the floor was warm. In our house, I never thought we were poor. By today’s standards, we were. Yet, the kitchen floor was warm. Everything is better when we are warm! Mama’s kitchen floor was always warm and there was plenty of food for the table.
Used dolls in a box
There, in the kitchen, we found the box. Inside the box were six dolls – one for each of us. It didn’t matter that they were unwrapped, used, and from Goodwill. We didn’t care, for the dolls were new to us. The Christmas we got the dolls was one of my favorite Christmases, yet the dolls were used and worn. Mama purchased them at Goodwill and our aunts made clothing for each one of them.
It was a favorite Christmas, and I think I know why. The dolls, though used, now belonged to us, and we belonged in Mama’s house with the warm kitchen floor. I remember the excitement of waiting my turn to get my doll. There was one doll in that box just for me. I do not remember quibbling over who got which doll. Nor do I remember for certain how it was decided who got to choose first (although consensus says that age order was used since there was a tradition of “the last doll” when one reached a certain age).
Christmas is not about gifts. It is about belonging. Christmas is about being part of a family and creating memories together in every season, year after year. Christmas is about sometimes (especially as we grow older) being separated – then coming back together again because we belong.
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Messiah. We also celebrate the wonder of family – where, no matter how rumpled or ragged, we belong.