Now that I am done being sidetracked, let me regale you with what Christmas was like at the Cox's apartment in the early seventies.
My parents, even though they were parents, still liked to party. And for some reason, most of their friends didn't have kids. So most Christmas's were geared toward the adults than the kids. Oh we still had fun, but probably not the same kind of fun as most kids.
In 1973 I was 5, my brother was 9 and my sister was 10. I am pretty sure they didn't believe in Santa anymore, but they went along with it for my sake.
So the evening of Christmas Eve would start with family and friends coming to our house. I remember my grandmother and Harry (her live in boyfriend, only grandfather on my moms side that I really remember) would be there. Also my Aunt Marge and Uncle Ron (friends of my parents, not real aunt and uncles because both my parents were only children). I'm sure my dad's parents were there, they lived in the apartment building right next door to us, but they weren't as social as the rest, so it's a vague memory. I remember the loud people, the partiers the most.
So we would have an apartment full of people. And our apartment wasn't that big, so as a five year old it may have seemed like more than were actually there. But between my own family of five two sets of grandparents and Aunt Marge and Uncle Ron, that was plenty.
Since my mom and dad were partying, the last thing they wanted to do was get up at the crack of dawn to open presents. So the kids went to bed around 9 or 10 while the adults kept the celebration going. Before going to bed we would leave Santa a shot of whiskey, yes whiskey, it's cold flying around the world all night. If you aren't Irish, you might not understand. And then we'd be off to bed. After my parents knew we were good and asleep, they would bring out our gifts. Sometimes starting to put things together just then as well. When they had everything out and put together (and I heard in later years that the "putting together" part often took a whole lot longer than my dad thought it would) my parents would come and wake us up yelling "Santa's been here, come open your presents." Now this was usually around midnight or later depending on how much trouble toy assembly had been.
I remember this year particularly because I heard Santa's sleigh and that is what woke me up. It's kind of hard to explain, but the way our apartment was configured, the kitchen window was just an angle away from the bedroom I shared with my sister. Not right next to our window, but just across the way at an angle (clear as mud I'm sure). We used to string a clothes line from our bedroom to the kitchen to hang clothes to dry. Anyway, that year I was awoken to the sound of Santa's sleigh bells outside my window. I was told years later that it was my grandmother (moms mom) and she had hung herself out the kitchen window ringing bells so I would hear the bells outside of mine. (We lived on the second floor). It's a happy memory that I am glad I have.
So anyway, while we were happy Santa had been there, WE WERE TIRED! We had just fallen asleep. The adults were mostly happily inebriated at this point, so they were all quite jolly. We would open our presents, entertaining the adults, get a few minutes to play with a few things, then back to bed with you, playtime tomorrow.
Does anyone else think this is bizarre? It was the norm for us, at least for a few more years. During the summer of 1975, a mean girl I knew told me that that Santa was lie. I asked my mom and she confirmed it. I think she was happy about it because we no longer had to play the going to bed charade. We just started opening our presents before we went to bed on Christmas Eve.
We continued to have Open Houses on Christmas Eve. In 1976 we moved to Illinois. That year we had our first Christmas in a new house, in a new state. Grandparents flew in to be with us. As we all made new friends, more and more people got to experience a Cox Christmas Eve. Some of my friends still talk about coming to our house Christmas Eve. The food and booze were always flowing. My parents were perfect hosts. It really is one of the highlights of my childhood memories. A lot of things were not good about my childhood, but almost every Christmas was. I miss that my children will never experience what we had when all of my family could be together. We weren't the perfect family by any means, but there were times when we did have a lot of fun.
When Time who steals our years away
Shall steal our pleasures too,
The mem’ry of the past will stay,
And half our joys renew.