Here’s what I remember about the long ago time of being a young married person living in New York City at Christmastime.  I remember giving my heavy winter coat to the lady in the coat check room at the front of Bloomingdales then attacking the floors like a stealth shopper on a death defying mission.  I’d gather three or four Big Brown Bags worth of merchandise and then head back to the lady and check those.  Attack, check, repeat.  Attack, check, repeat.  Until I’d finally achieved my mother’s gifts for my father, my father’s gifts for my mother, my parents gifts for me, mine for them and gone on to get some for friends as well.  I’d leave the store just about wearing a wide skirt of shopping bags, feeling the ache between my shoulder blades before I got to the corner.  I’d be thinking about the books I meant to get at Brentano’s the next day.  

I remember the weariness born of dehydration and determination and the satisfaction of being close to the shopping finish line.  I remember not knowing it took youth to do Christmas that way and I remember that when I entered our small apartment glowing with the light of our big tree our big dog would be waiting to be walked and that seemed like dandy idea.  

Online shopping, restraint and the passing of the era of coat check ladies in department stores have changed all that.  The passing of my parents too.  And the simple passage of time.  

I had to go to Bloomingdales on Christmas Eve this year.  There was one gift I was certain to find there.  I knew to take a deep breath before I entered the store and to resolve to get just that one thing.  I knew to tell myself I had enough time to let someone in a hurry go before me.  I knew to smile at the sales person and ask how her day was going.  I’ve aged and learned a bit about Christmas shopping. I’m carrying so much less than I once did and so grateful for that.

            — Laura Sillerman

Tell me what you are grateful for, joyous about one is asked at this time of year.

I am suspicious of joy and other exuberance, conditioned as I am against extreme emotions.  Excess enthusiasm by itself must be one of the danger signs of something, and never more so than at this life stage where the words, “sudden”, “massive”, “overwhelming”, assume new meaning.

Intent upon organizing my existence, an annual impulse, which this year included the typical making neater piles of papers on my various desks, donating excess books to anyone who would take them, and being more connected, I’ve rediscovered my siblings.  None of us was lost to the others.  Our communication was frequent, often funny, typically via telephone or via Internet.  A diagram of the relationships would be single circle for each of us with three spokes pointing outward.  Assembling en masse—we are four—was relatively rare.

We’ve been meeting each other together lately.  One characteristic defines us, and I suppose other sibling groups as well. Sui generis.  We form a continent apart, an organic whole akin to the uniqueness attributed to twins or nebulae.  Neither spouses nor children can replicate, nor truly enter, the entity that constitutes biological sibs raised together.  It seems odd to suggest this, but even parents are not truly part of the sibling bond. 

No epiphany or bolt of joy to report so far.  Satisfaction inheres in knowing that we simply are. 

            — Faith Childs

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  • Jan Johnson December 27, 2008 at 10:23 am

    It’s not that we don’t have our own set of siblings and parents with their eccentricities, but the fact that your particular managerie
    is closer now than when we were younger is a blessing. Enjoy the changes.

  • Marilyn December 26, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Faith Childs/siblings
    Sui generis an apt description past; not a suprise to read it remains their present. Wish Faith Childs and her siblings the best of all there is! She always sought and continues to evidence the best of lifes offerings. Representing the great Paule Marshall speaks volumes acknowledged by too few.
    The sibling connecton, be it birthed or created, so critical to this generation of nonextended family livers. Glad to see it manifest. Parents, in all their uniqueness, the creator, or at miminum, the space for its creation.
    The best to Faith and her siblings!