A definitive sign I’m really a grown-up, my large collection of Eeyore shirts and watches notwithstanding: I did not wake up this morning, Christmas Day, until Mr. Karen gently shook my shoulder and let me know the alarm clock hadn’t gone off. We needed to get up right then or we would be late for church. (We did make it, but barely beat the choir into the sanctuary.) What a change from childhood Christmases, when I’d wake early and often, wondering what presents would be waiting for me when morning finally came.
My favorite Christmas growing up was not one when I woke to race to the tree and see what was underneath because there was no tree. Instead there was something better–a hotel suite. My mom teamed up a friend of hers who was also on her own after a divorce and all six of us–my mom and brother and me and the other mom and her daughter and son–checked into the Hyatt Regency O’Hare on Christmas Eve. It was the fanciest place I’d ever been; how my mom managed to afford it I have no idea.
I gaped at the huge open atrium, with the balconies stacked up story upon story. I felt like a celebrity riding the glass elevators–I’m sure no one was really paying any attention to my gawky preteen self, but there I was on display all the same. And the suite–the suite was huge–it seemed as big as our whole apartment. I tried to imagine who would stay there when it wasn’t a special occasion–probably someone rich and important, I thought.
After we got settled in the room, we changed into our bathing suits before going down to the indoor swimming pool. Swimming in December–now that’s luxury. Because it was a holiday, they closed the pool earlier that usual–I remember my mom was upset about that, but I didn’t care. Sure, I liked the pool, but I liked those glass elevators, too, and they weren’t closing those early.
Eventually I had to stop riding down to the lobby and back up again and we kids settled into the big beds. Even though we had to share these, we had plenty of space because these were huge–I hadn’t ever seen a king-sized bed before. It was hard to get to sleep, what with the excitement of being in this fancy new place added to the excitement of it being Christmas the next day, but I eventually managed I know because I woke up in what felt like the middle of the night to see my mom setting a big present down near the end of my bed. I wasn’t surprised to see her doing that–I’d given up believing in Santa already, so I knew where toys came from. I wanted to sit up and take a closer look at the present, but I didn’t want to let my mom know I was awake since she was trying to make a surprise for me for the morning, so I just kept sneaking peeks at the end of the bed until I fell back to sleep.
Morning came as it will, and I found the big present was a pachinko machine–my dad had seen them in Japan and talked about them, so I knew what they were. I’m not sure what eventually happened to that present, but I’ll always remember those elevators in the Hyatt and the gift of atmosphere that my mom gave me that year.
One year ago, we had lights in a tree.
Two years ago, I wrote about a favorite Christmas song.
Three years ago, there was no entry because I was on an airplane and stuff.
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