Mom used to hang a piece of white flannel on the wall beside our refrigerator. It was short in width and long in length, and had red numbers—from 1 to 25—stitched into the cloth. The flannel went up on December 1st (or maybe even earlier, if we couldn’t wait) and came down just after Christmas. On each number, Mom would hang a small candy cane. Or more accurately, she would tape a plastic-covered cane on top of each number. (She was a Sunday school teacher and always had plenty of tape on hand, both of the Scotch and masking varieties.)
25 days and 25 candy canes to go before Christmas.
Mom and I had a conversation, each year, about the best approach to removing the candy canes. We would quickly agree that it was more fun to start on day 25, and remove the candy from the bottom of the chart to the top. This would show us exactly how many days were left until Christmas.
(Personally, I never really liked candy canes much. I didn’t mind sucking on them and creating a sharp point with the long stem-piece, but they made your hands sticky, and I would have much preferred Hershey’s Kisses instead. So the taking down of the candy was my job, but the eating of the candy was open to anyone in the family.)
I must have walked by that chart a thousand times, and each time I would think something like, “16 more days until Christmas. I’ll never make it.” I wished that there was some way to speed up the process. To go from bottom to top in a day, or even better, in a minute. To make it Christmas right now. The waiting was terrible. Can you imagine having to endure such an ordeal?
But, the day would finally come when only one cane remained. The best day of the year—Christmas Eve. The best day for our family, because we opened presents on Christmas Eve—a thing considered to be blasphemous by many of my friends.
And how did Santa get the presents to us before Christmas Day, you might ask?
Easy! He came to our front door (we didn’t have a chimney) and handed the gifts to my parents. He was Santa. He could do anything he wanted.
And then, in a flash, Christmas would be over. We’d take down the tree (or take it apart, plastic piece by plastic piece, in later years) and carefully place all of the decorations into a box. The box would eventually make its way up to the attic above our carport until the next holiday season, when we’d open it up again and pull out—first thing—the Christmas countdown calendar.