Christmas memories – and that mouse | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Dec 19, 2018

I’ve shared childhood Christmas memories often through my years of writing this column.

Right now, I’m remembering my mother early in December, eager to unpack her boxes of Christmas décor, stored in the attic of our old Edmonds home at Fourth and Dayton. The low-ceilinged attic accommodated my brother Warren’s complex Lionel model train setup, a hobby he shared with our father.

Storage boxes lined a distant wall. My brother and I dragged our mother’s Christmas boxes around the edges of the tracks toward the doorway. He left the trains running as we crept around them, and they clattered along complicated routes, puffing smoke from the smoke pellets I bought him for every gift-giving occasion.

Our mother waited in the low doorway, watching her children – and the several trains. All Warren wanted for Christmas came in Lionel boxes.

What did I want for Christmas?

One year I wanted a baton, which I never learned to twirl without injuring an innocent family member or myself. Another year all I wanted was a ukulele, which I never learned to play. Mostly, for quite a few years, I wanted horse and dog books.

That was it. I wanted all of Albert Payson Terhune’s books about collies – and any book about any horse.

And I wanted a diary – which I received the Christmas I was 9. I wrote faithfully in that. Recently, I asked my 7-year-old granddaughter for a Christmas list.

She invited me to her room and carefully penciled a list. One of the first items? A diary.

“With a lock, Grandma,” she said, eyeing Adam, 9, hanging from the bunk ladder while Abby and I sat on small chairs, knees practically touching the cage of her new mice. MICE? (Just don’t ask, OK? Adam said mice are cleaner than cats and dogs, which I would think is of absolutely no interest to any thinking person.)

“Well, of course,” I said, looking away from the gray rodent racing on a plastic wheel while her sibling poked his nose through the wire of the cage, beady eyes trained on one of the three cats, Nutmeg, also poking his whiskers through the wire—and lashing his tail.

I stood up. “A lock. Absolutely. What’s a diary without a lock? Could we go downstairs now?”

Downstairs, I asked Adam if he had a Christmas list, too.

“No. Not really.”

I said I’d like one from him. He reached for his sister’s list, turned it over and wrote something on the back. He quickly handed it to me with a grin and said, “There, Grandma.” At the top of the page, one word: “Adam.” And below his name another word: “Anything.” I like both of their lists, actually. And I’m eager to see the list of their 15-year-old cousin Annika.

What do I want for Christmas? Kindness. Peace. Generosity. Humility.

People helping one another, neither labeling nor judging. People saving the earth and its wonders for their children’s children and generations to come. And for those who are sad and lonely – whether alone or in a crowd – and who find the holidays far removed from joy, I wish comfort.

I regret that “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” are heartbreakers, sung on every corner. I know. I know. I wish you a lessening of pain in the New Year, a shred more optimism every day, until finally you feel a new awakening, fresh hope.

 

 

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