I don't really like Christmas. Actually, I kind of hate it. I suppose my reasons for that are pretty selfish. The size of my family is precisely two: me and my grandmother… that's it. And since I spend a lot of time with my grandmother on a regular basis, for me Christmas is just another day. I'm not so misanthropic that I begrudge other people celebrating it, I've just had to admit over the years that Christmas is a holiday that passes me by, and that's okay. I love the food on Thanksgiving and the company on New Years', so I can take a day off off. (See what I did there?)
But like anybody, I have vivid memories of Christmases from childhood, and it's one of those memories I'd like to share. This comes from the year 1995, which has a special significance for a certain type of super-nerd (at least one who's as old as me)… that was the year Kenner decided to bring back their line of Star Wars action figures after a decade-long absence from toy store shelves. The timing was right; earlier that year 20th Century Fox had rereleased the Star Wars Trilogy on VHS (what is that??) with THX remasters, which we all now realize is the least offensive way George Lucas ever found to repackage his movies. My mom bought me the tapes that summer, and they solidified the love I had for the Star Wars franchise. Therefore, as a really nerdy 11-year-old, I obviously REALLY wanted those toys.
My Christmas list for 1995, then, was basically filled with all the Star Wars merchandise I knew existed—not just the action figures but their corresponding vehicles and whatever video games were available at the time (I think TIE Fighter was the big one; it ran on an ancient OS known as DOS). And you remember being a kid on Christmas morning… there's a reason that expression exists, after all… I could not wait to tear into my presents and relive the battles of a galaxy far, far away in 3-3/4 inch scale.
My house was a "presents on Christmas Eve" kind of house… which is awesome if you're an impatient little scamp like me. But still, we always had to wait to open presents until Christmas Eve afternoon. And in an attempt to cool my burning desire for material objects, my mom would usually make me take a walk with her after lunch before present-time. In retrospect, I'm sure she also understood that all that delayed gratification made the eventual present-opening seem that much cooler—she was pretty smart—but that didn't occur to me as a kid. I just knew I had to wait to receive the objects of my desire.
I remember the particular walk this Christmas pretty vividly. At some point in our trek around our neighborhood, my mom asked me what was the thing I was looking forward to most about Christmas that year. Even at 11, I knew I was supposed to say something like "spending time with you" or another equally maudlin response, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I just knew what was waiting for me back at the house, and I couldn't contain my excitement. "Getting all that Star Wars stuff," I said. "Definitely the TIE Fighter. And Chewbacca."
I expected my mom to get upset at my crass materialism, but like I said, she was a pretty smart lady. She smiled and said to me, "That's okay. You're young, and that's what Christmas is for. I hope you enjoy your presents." There was not a hint of sarcasm or disappointment in her voice. And I remember that so well because it was one of those really interesting moments that totally defies expectations—instead of me being reprimanded for my geeky greed, I was comforted for doing what any 11-year-old nerd was expected to do. If I really want to reach, I might say that that was my first true introduction to situationally-dependent ethics, but I don't know if that's really the case. Maybe what stands out to me about that moment after all these years is just how kind my mom was being in that instance, because I realize now that that's the kind of love and support you should expect from your family, especially on Christmas, and I'm glad to have some memories of that.
If haven't guessed by now, my mom has indeed passed away. Two years after that story she had a stroke and fell into a coma, and four years after that she died. Since my dad is... not a great dude, Christmas since then has just been me and my grandma. And really, I don't mean to speak poorly of the time we spent together—I know it means a lot to both of us—like I said before, it's just kind of any other day.
So maybe you're wondering if I look back on those Christmases I had with my mom and feel regret… why did I care so much about Star Wars toys when more important things were right in front of me, things I wouldn't have much longer? Honestly, though, I don’t really feel that way at all, and that's mostly because my mom was smart enough to teach me a super-important lesson at an early age: that you should never feel guilty for being who you are. I was a kid, and I did what kids were supposed to do. Incidentally, I received and enjoyed the heck out of a ton of Star Wars toys that year. I was happy, my mom was happy, and George Lucas was happy. Everybody won… at least until the prequels.