I Know What You’re Getting For Christmas

The holidays can be emotionally wrought times for most people. I try to focus only on the joy and special memories of family and friends. (At moments, I even succeed.) And any time I need help focusing on completely sweet memories, I think of Jerry’s mother, Alice.

Alice lived for Christmas. Well, that’s an oversimplification. Alice lived for the joy of living — as well as for her family, her children, her grandchildren, her friends, and her neighbors. She also lived for carousels (she couldn’t pass a carousel without hauling you on for a ride). But, she did absolutely relish Christmas.


Alice began her Christmas shopping in July.  Some years she also completed her Christmas shopping in July. When she died in 1999 the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November), we arrived to find her house entirely decorated for Christmas (and, let me tell you, she went all out). All her Christmas cards were completed, sealed, and sitting on the dining room table waiting to be mailed.  Jerry and his sisters honored her by mailing them. We all met up to spend one last Christmas at Alice’s house that year, opening the presents that had been left under the tree for us, and crying a lot, which is — oh, crud — what I suddenly find myself doing right now. Enough of that!


Around 1981, in Jerry’s family, a tradition was begun whereby each of us drew a name, one name only, and that was the person for whom we were to buy a nice Christmas gift. We could buy gifts for the kids in the family, but we were only allowed to buy for the one adult whose name we drew. We all followed the rule to some extent.  But not Alice. Her way around the rule was to simply send a boatload of presents with gift tags that said they were from Santa.

“Alice,” we’d say, “You’re not following the rules.”

“Well, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she’d insist. “Those aren’t from me. They’re from Santa.”

When Jerry’s father, Jim, would draw one of our names, Alice would of course go out and buy the present “from Jim.”  I remember one Christmas day calling Jim to thank him for my gift and laughing as I heard Alice whisper before he took the phone, “You bought him a sweater.”

Because Alice was always ready for Christmas months in advance (which drove us crazy since she would ask for our Christmas lists in June), she loved nothing more than phoning us as early as possible to say in a sing-song voice, “I know what you’re getting for Christmas.” In 1995, she took it a step further and sent us an “anonymous” letter pieced together from magazine clippings and taped to a piece of brown paper bag.


STILL TO COME: The Christmas Lights of Sevilla

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

16 thoughts on “I Know What You’re Getting For Christmas”

  1. Wow! Your mother-in-law was quite a character. Loved the way you send those cards anyway after her death, because everyone who received them knew she loved that holiday.

  2. Peter:
    Alice was one of a kind. Sending and receiving those cards was overpoweringly emotional, I'm sure. But they were done and, knowing Alice, they had to be sent.

  3. Do NOT shy away from getting a bit weepy over this great lady. What a magnificent woman, full of love, optimism, generosity and joy. On second thought, do avoid the tears, break out the champagne and celebrate your great fortune in knowing and having been loved by such a blessed spirit.

  4. Will:
    Truth is, the tears passed quickly. She brought major joy into my life and left it there! As for champagne, I will do just that. Alice was not a drinker, but on special occasions she made a wicked vodka-spiked rhubarb slush!

  5. Ok, I haven't read all the previous comments, so forgive me if someone already pointed this out. But I love how Alice wrote the question mark from "guess who?" with a pen instead of finding one to cut out of a magazine. Priceless!

  6. Walt the Fourth:
    I love the fact that you noticed that. I've always found that kind of funny. First, that Alice couldn't find a question mark in any of her magazines. And, second, that she felt the words "Guess Who" needed one.

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