By Angie Gomez Lippiatt
Special to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol
I hated opening Christmas presents when I was a kid.
My parents, in a goodhearted effort, always tried to show my younger sister and I that just like them, Santa loved us both equally; and so we always received identical toys and clothes.
My little brother was the lucky one. Of course being four years older than my sister, I felt it was unfair and also a load of ducky pucky. I mean, you’re on your best behavior all year long, because in the back of your mind you knew you had to add up the brownie points, so that your chances of getting a particularly special and unique toy that you saw on a TV commercial would pan out.
We also took the time to list what we wanted, on a much thought out and semi-grammatically correct Christmas letter penned to Mr. Santa Claus in hopes that our requests might appear under our tree on Christmas morning — wrapped in the paper we saw mom put in the shopping cart during the last family shopping trip to Kmart.
Christmas Eve night, my parents would try to get us to go to bed early because they had the monumental job of wrapping all the gifts in one shot before midnight, after which they would wake us up to show us that “Yes, Angie there is a Santa,” and he is exhausted as hell and wants to get some Z’s before being awakened again at the crack of dawn for the rest of the ordeal!
My poor parents never caught on that we never really slept. But we were decent kids and loved them enough to let them believe we were asleep…it was the least we could do so they could have that magical feeling of Christmas!
My dad, groggy and disheveled, would be setting up the movie camera (no camcorders existed yet!) while my mom reheated a potpourri of tamales.
My mom would make pork, beef, chicken, my favorite green chili and cheese and the detestable sweet tamales…yuck! These rustically wrapped delectables would be steamed, while she scrambled eggs, mashed the refried beans and made sure the champurrado (a Mexican drink made with flour, cinnamon, sugar and milk) was not too thick.
My mom would be singing along with Jose Feliciano, her accent changing the words to “We wan nu weesh joo a Merry Chreesmas!” as she danced a two-step in place. I loved it when my mom sang American Christmas carols; even though she mutilated the lyrics, she had a beautiful voice.
With us kids fed, we would stampede to the living room, where our little sparse tree stood overloaded with all the decorations we made at school throughout the years. My mom threw nothing away! And, Oi! The anxiety as we were forced to take pictures in front of the tree and all the presents; this was tantamount to torture for us kids and I think my dad knew and enjoyed it.
Finally after what seemed like 1,000 pictures, we were allowed to open our gifts. My mom, who is a neat freak, had already neatly stacked and separated our gifts by size and name, stood back and with garbage bag in hand, urged us to open our gifts. My dad manned the movie camera and the really bright halogen light, because the room wasn’t bright enough…we could literally feel the heat off it!
I would do my best to carefully open my first present and, “Ta-da!” I had a new Barbie dressed in a bright orange mini dress with matching boots — yay! Then my sister opened her gift…a Barbie dressed in the same style dress and boots only they were pink!
The next gift was a maxi peasant dress which I fell in love with because it was so hippieish! Then my sister opened her gift and, you guessed it…the very same dress! This went on until everything was opened. It was a simultaneous mixture of elation and subsequent let down. And this went on every Christmas for years.
As I grew up I began to understand why my parents did things that way. They figured if we got the same thing we would never have cause to be jealous of one another since there would be no favorite child. I love them for trying to make us all happy in the most simplistic of ways. They did what they thought was best and would work to keep the peace.
But I will say one thing; thank goodness I had my godparents… AND I was their favorite kid!
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!