When I was a little girl in what is now the midcentury modern age, just on the good side of retro and the dark side of old fashioned, the Christmas countdown held a particular charm. In terms of inspiring childhood magic, it was no different than generations prior or since.
My mother was less than a decade older than our guy (1928) and her formative years held quite similar circumstances, unimaginable poverty, rural south, small community. One difference being she was one of many, with parents who eventually split up. It was the struggle of these very bleak circumstances that positively influenced the enormous generous holiday spirit evidenced in the modern day Presley household.
Elvis adored the holidays, the decorations, the excitement, the gift giving. It’s said it was his most favorite and joyous time of the year. Going from so little to so much likely impacted him just as his past did. It became part of who he was. My mother on the other hand abhorred the holidays. Growing up I could never understand it and I selfishly resented her spoiling the merriment.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, back when there was an actual line between the two holidays, she would grow distant and morose, a canopy of sullenness covering our household. Decorative lights and shiny tinsel were dimmed by her attitude rather than reflecting the joy. Instead of being reminders of festivity, they were objects of dissension and disagreement, every bulb and every strand testament to the struggle.
Her argument was the intensive commercialism, the expense, the mess, the work, the greediness, and the unwanted and unmet expectations. My father was the Father Christmas who made everything jolly and right. We tiptoed around my mother trying to draw as little attention as possible to the high spirits bows and ribbons provided, less they be gone in a blink.
Before you see this as a pity party, hear me out. Despite the contention, I never felt I missed out. I resented her attitude because I was too young to get it. There are two sides to every coin. I’m convinced, her side, her resentment, was more of a reaction to a combination of personality, dire circumstances and lack of nurturing.
My father, like Elvis (1926) was an only child, deep south, poverty, etc. The difference being is he, like Elvis, knew he was loved and valued as a child and circumstances did not define him. As an adult, he came to love and adore the holidays because he was able to pass the Yuletide spirit on, financially and emotionally and he took great delight in giving to others. It was in his nature.
My point is this – as we wish others a Merry Christmas, keep in mind each person comes from a different place. For many, it’s a tremendous source of stress and harbors a melancholy feel, a sadness from loss or solitude or circumstances. For some, it’s a reminder of all they’ve been given while others are reminded of what they’ve lost. Societal expectations reinforce inadequacy in some while others rise to the challenge. The build up and let down are both very real.
Christmas and Elvis walk hand in hand. I rejoice in hearing his voice, learning of his Christmas joys, hearing recollections of his holiday giving and at the same time, a little wistful he’s not around except in spirit. He should be here.
Be kind to one another, but more importantly, please be kind to yourself. I truly and sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas and may your memories bring you joy and peace. 🎄