One particular aunt of mine never married. There were never children in her daily life yet she understood the magic of Christmas like no other adult in the family. That’s because she viewed Christmas through the eyes of a child. We only saw her a few times during the year and one of those times was during the holidays. Despite how blustery or icy or freezing it was outside she travelled some fourteen hours from Chicago. It may have taken her a little longer than planned but she always made it home for Christmas.
On the date she was expected, my cousins and I waited for her along with everyone else at our grandmother’s. If it was later on in the evening and she still wasn’t there, supper was kept warm and the coffee made ready to be perked as soon as she rushed through the front door of that place that had welcomed generations with its fireplace in the living room and pine table in the kitchen and a certain room whose door was kept shut, known to be off limits for children anticipating Santa Claus.
As we waited I didn’t have to imagine what this aunt might be wearing or how her hair would be fixed or how the bags and bags of presents might be wrapped because every year all of that remained the same. The coat would be wool-bright cherry red wool with big buttons down the front and pockets on either side. Usually the weather made it necessary that the collar be up and secured as snug as possible. A plaid, wool scarf and black leather gloves and boots with fur around the top would complete the look. Her hair would be in a tight wave around her face. It never went below her chin line. Her lips would be as red as her coat and her eyebrows would be very thin. What really mattered though to us young ones would be the gifts chucked tightly into bags as she’d burst inside with snow following her and kids running to her.
When her car finally pulled into the driveway we were told to wait until she got into the house; then wait until her coat and boots were off but even our aunt couldn’t wait for all of that. She was as eager to scoop us up as we were eager to be embraced. She took time with each one of us and when we stepped back to let her get in to the living room we all had red lipstick on our cheeks.
Once the adults had their coffee cups full the moment arrived. Sitting with our aunt on the sofa we were allowed to take the presents out of her bags and after studying them and shaking them we were allowed to carry them into that room whose door was kept shut to those of us anxiously awaiting Santa. Such pressure! This would be the only time we’d get to see how many presents were already wrapped and sitting on the bed. If we took it slow we might even be able to read a few name tags.
Turns out that bed was always stacked high with presents of all sizes and shapes and most always we did find a few gifts with our names on them. But of all the gifts in that Santa room, the presents that our aunt with red lipstick brought home all the way from Chicago were the most intriguing. Each was wrapped in white or green or red tissue paper. Each was secured by Santa stickers and oodles and oodles of curly red and green ribbon made even curlier by an aunt who never had children but was as full of wonder and excitement and anticipation as her nieces and nephews were when waiting for their Santa Claus from Chicago to come back home again for Christmas.
Barbara Briggs Ward is the author of the award-winning Christmas story for adults-“The Reindeer Keeper”-chosen as the 2012 December selection by both the Yahoo’s Christmas Book Club Group and the Riverfront Book Club in Yonkers, NY. In 2011 the book was recognized with a Mom’s Choice Awards Gold Recipient in Adult Fiction. “The Reindeer Keeper” is represented by Bergman Entertainment, L.A. for option of film rights. Barbara has been published in two Chicken Soup for the Soul books-Christmas Magic, October 2010 and Family Caregivers, March 2012. For more information: www.thereindeerkeeper.com and www.barbarabriggsward.com. On Facebook-Barbara Briggs Ward and The Reindeer Keeper. On Twitter: @reindeerkeeper. On LinkedIn: Barbara Ward.
Read my review of this wonderful book HERE.
Always in spirit....