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Fifth Grade Memory

When I put up Christmas decorations in our home, I am beyond excited for the holiday season, the break from work, and quiet time with family. As I was taking down the tree this week, I wondered why I feel so elated.

The answer lies in a fifth grade memory.

The church was a central part of my childhood years. Not because we practiced the religion but we went to Catholic schools and we were immersed in the tales, music, foods, decorations, and people of the faith, just as much as we were steeped in Indian mythology and religion. Our school had a chapel on the grounds, which made life even more interesting. During mass, we would observe the proceedings from the balcony. The view of the faithful lining up for the sacramental wine and wafer indicated it was time to say our prayers and quietly exit the chapel.

The flowing robes worn by the priests, the habits, the mystique behind what lay under the veils, and reciting "Our Father who art in Heaven" all contributed to the familiarity with Christian traditions.

The fascination for the Christmas season was heightened by the cards that the nuns sold.

With beautiful images of snow-covered homes and churches, white picket fences, evergreens drooping with precipitation, Santa and reindeer on sleighs, and roads and rooftops blanketed with shining specks of snow, the cards transported me into a fantastical world straight out of the storybooks we read. Add to that the charming stories of Santa arriving through the chimney with bags of gifts and you can understand the seeds of my winter season excitement.

In 5th grade, I lamented to my brother that Santa never comes to our home. I should have known the truth by then, but we did have a chimney and the sadness was real.

My sweet brother - I hate admitting this because his head will swell even more! - used his meager resources to procure a red net bag and stuffed it with ornamental balls, chocolates and stocking stuffers. He hung it on the side of the bed when I was asleep on Christmas eve. The next morning he whispered that he heard a reindeer on the roof and then...we found the bag hanging on the bed! I was completely giddy!

He will forever be my hero because he made Santa come to our home.

When we arrived in the US, the shopping malls and corner stores decked in Christmas finery altered the magnitude of my delight. The decorations in FAO Schwartz in Manhattan instantly transported me to that night when Santa came down our chimney. Jaw at my knees, I walked around the store astonished at what life could be.

Tarun and I graduated from a two-foot tree to real trees and finally settled on a 7' pre-lit version. When Josh is home for Thanksgiving, he helps me decorate the tree with dozens of store bought ornaments, handmade ones from his and Neil's grade school days, and many decorative twigs and miniature gift boxes to fill the branches. Through the years, Tarun has encouraged me to add to our inventory of decorations and patiently helps me put them up each year.

These indulgences have made us avid Christmas people.

It's lovely to enjoy the season and then prepare for the myriad of Indian and American holidays throughout the year. By the time the first week of January comes around, I am ready to de-Christmas the house and exit our storybook existence. This photo of our tree, the reflections in the ornaments, and the landscape outside the window will propel me until the next holiday season.

Cheers to childhood memories and new beginnings!



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