I do other things besides watch Doctor Who, in case you’re worried.
The other afternoon – the one during which we lost power, and dinner had to be grossly toasted hot dogs and cold cereal – we watched an episode of Doctor Who in which one of the old sidekicks makes a reappearance. Sarah Jane. I recognized her immediately, even before the Doctor did. It’s funny what a face can do. One moment I’m sitting in front of the fire on my own living room floor, boys flopped over my legs and one foot tingly with sleep, and the next I’m whooshed back into my grandparents’ living room where the rug is a burnt red-speckled color with actual burn marks from a different fireplace (and a few burn marks from my grandfather’s ever-lit pipe) and I am less than five feet tall. I could smell my grandmother’s cooking and hear the 20-pound cat cross the creaky upstairs floor.
The moment passed and I returned to the present just in time to add another log to our only heat source. Look at me, traveling through time without even the TARDIS for help. I worry, as I lose my sense of smell, hearing, and sight that those memories accessible only via serendipitous sensation will disappear from lack of use. That if I can’t smell the wood smoke, I’ll lose the image of my grandfather rolling up a long piece of newspaper and tapping my head with it before tying it into a knot and placing it in the fire. But that’s a sad thought, and this is a happy season.
We keep our Christmas stockings in a pile on the floor of my side of the closet, and a few days ago I had to go digging. Found them – well, at least four of them, plus a worn teddy. Pizza Bear. I figured out that this Christmas is Pizza Bear’s and my 32nd anniversary. I got him as a present the year my father became my father. Originally Pizza Bear was scheduled to be delivered to another little girl. I was along on the shopping trip when we bought him, and carried him companionably around the store, then found many moments over the next few days to find him in his pre-wrapped condition and have a dance, a talk, a snuggle, an adventure. My newly minted pair of parents decided to indulge my sudden and intense love and he appeared under our own tree, in a box, just for me. He is the only stuffy I still have from my childhood.
The story of Pizza Bear is the one I wish for my own kiddos. We work hard to emphasize the familyness of the holiday, and how presents are a luxury we are lucky to have, but I don’t want to forget this part, the perfect present part. I hope there’s something under the tree they’ll remember. Maybe it will get tucked into the dark recesses of their adult lives, but I hope some future Christmas they might discover a model, a telescope, a stuffy hiding in the back of their side of the closet, and it will suck them back to when they lived in a usually warm house with people who loved them best of all.