Home > Family > My First Christmas Memory

My First Christmas Memory

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I regret to inform you, Dear Reader, that D1’s memory is improving. Sure, you might be thinking, “Wait…don’t you want her to have a good memory?” Not really. You see, distraction has been my favorite tool in my parenting toolbox but it has now been rendered ineffective. For example, a year ago my daughter would constantly ask if I would buy her something and whenever she did, I told her I’d buy it for her when she got bigger. Case closed. If she saw me eating chocolate, I’d tell her she can have it tomorrow and of course, she forgot about it the next day. By the way, there’s no such thing as sneaking candy or treats when you have kids – they have a 6th sense for sugar.

But now? She remembers. Everything. “Appa, you said I could have chocolate today. Can I have it, please?” “Appa, you said you would buy this for me when I was bigger…am I bigger now?” So with deep sorrow, I’m putting away my distraction tool. For now.

Her improved memory also means that these moments we share, could potentially make up her childhood scars memories. So this year could be her very first Christmas memories. Which got me thinking about my very first Christmas memory.

My family immigrated to the States when I was 4. After living with my uncle and his family for a year (4 adults, a 4yo, 2-2yos, and 1 infant in a 2 bedroom apartment), we moved into our own apartment. I have a lot of memories of that year but I can’t recall anything particularly Christmas-y.

The next year, I started kindergarten and of course I learned all about Christmas and Santa Claus from school. I learned that he came down your chimney and gave you presents, which sounded absolutely awesome. Except, we didn’t have a chimney. I asked my mom how Santa would come give me my presents since we don’t have a chimney and she told me that Santa has the keys to all the apartments of all the good kids.

The thought of a fat, bearded white man having the keys to my apartment freaked me out. But since he was white, I figured he’d be like all the other white kids in my school who thought I was A) Chinese and as a result I must B) know karate, and I could scare him off by simply saying, “My dad is Bruce Lee ya know.”

Anywho, my sister and I went to bed the night before Christmas, eagerly awaiting to see what gifts we would get. Other kids told me how they would get action figures, toy cars, and all kinds of other cool stuff from Santa Claus, stuff a poor, immigrant family couldn’t really afford.

The next morning, my sister and I ran to our little tiny tree and found candy, probably 10 items or so, for each of us. And the candy was marked with 7-11 price tags. At that moment, I knew in my little 5-year-old soul that there was no Santa Claus, and was relieved to know that the fat man didn’t have the keys to my apartment. And I also realized that my mom and dad went out after my sister and I were fast asleep and spent their hard-earned money to make their kids happy. My sister turned to me and said, “Isn’t Santa great, oppa? (oppa is the Korean word for girls when addressing an older boy)” “Yeah,” I replied, “He really is.” That sequence probably didn’t happen, but it sounds so Hallmark Christmas-y with it in, wouldn’t you agree?

I didn’t get a toy car or a cool action figure, and in fact, when I told my friends at school that I got candy from 7-11 from Santa, many of them laughed. But I remember feeling so loved by my parents.

Reflecting on it now, I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for my parents. Being in a new country and adapting to new, commercial holidays was quite the culture shock, especially since they were struggling just to get by. And it also explains my unending affinity and affection for 7-11.

Santa did eventually give us better gifts (I never spoiled it for my sister), but nothing will replace that first memory of knowing that my mom and dad loved me and my sister so much that they’d use what little money they had to make their kids happy. And who can forget knowing that the fat man doesn’t have the keys to the apartment.

I’m not sure what memories D1 and D2 will hold on to as they grow up and become adults, but my prayer is that their first Christmas memories are just like mine: that mommy and daddy love them.

What’s your first Christmas memory? What do you wish for your kids this year?

  1. December 15, 2010 at 10:35 am

    That’s a sweet story and what a nice memory. I am surprised and delighted that you, at the age of 5 or 6, were able to realize how much your parents loved you to do that for you.

    • Pop
      December 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      I was the poor kid in kindergarten – we didn’t have much and the other kids let me know. Really nice of them to inform me how poor I was, huh? πŸ˜› So when I realized my parents bought that for me, it meant a lot.

  2. KLZ
    December 15, 2010 at 10:56 am

    This brought tears to my eyes. I’m so, so glad you knew, that you didn’t ruin it for your sister, that your parents did so much for you.

    Merry Christmas to that indeed.

    • Pop
      December 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      I had tears in my eyes while typing it out. Reflecting back on that memory makes me very, very happy.

  3. December 15, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    What a great story! Loved that you looked out for your sister. It’s more fun when there’s at least 1 kid who still believes.

    My first memory was making a snowman at my grandparents house that ended up looking like Snoopy which was even more awesome!

    Also, never mess with a kid and their sugar. Just sayin

    • Pop
      December 15, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      What a lovely memory.

      And yeah, that’s lesson you don’t want to learn the hard way – you could lose some fingers.

  4. December 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Wait…so…does that mean you *don’t* know Karate?? Wow. I’m disillusioned now.

    Most of my memories of Christmas revolve around going to the grocery store to have my picture taken with Santa. Or waking up obscenely early and waiting on the couch for my parents to get up. I’d perk up at any little noise, hoping they were awake. I might occasionally make a little bit of noise here & there to speed the process along…Ahem.

    Our kids? I’m not sure what there memories are going to be. We rotate where we spend our Christmases (so we can see each branch of the family), but we always do a “family” Christmas with just us, too.

    • Pop
      December 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      It doesn’t matter whether I know karate or not – I just have to lead people to believe I do. Seriously, that prevented a lot of bullying.

      “Let’s pick on the little Chinese kid”
      “Nuh uh—his dad’s Bruce Lee…”

      My parents never took the time to wrap presents, so I have no idea what that’s like. πŸ˜›

  5. December 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Hallmark should totally hire you to write sappy cards…kidding…no they should though…
    Seriously though…this story is just awesome. I love that at 5 years old, you were still appreciative of what your parents did for the both of you. And the fact that you didn’t stomp and pout and say “Santa’s a lie” is pretty admirable.

    • Pop
      December 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      I didn’t ruin it for my sister but I DID ruin it for all the jerks who laughed at what “santa” gave me for Christmas.

  6. Fenny
    December 15, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Dammit. Stop with the blog posts that makes me cry & want to call up my parents to tell them that I love them! They’ll think I’m in trouble or something!

    My first Xmas memory was from when I was 6. Like you, we were immigrants and pretty poor those first years. My patents worked hard and because Xmas day was a rare opportunity for them to sleep in, when we woke up on Xmas morning, we each had a cheap Xmas stocking (from Kmart) stuffed with breakfast foods (Chinese man tou & soy milk & oranges) so that we wouldn’t wake them up. My cousins & I would carry our stockings into the living room and watch TV until our parents woke up (usually around noon). This was the tradition until I was 16…and I throughly plan on having this tradition with my kids!

    • Pop
      December 15, 2010 at 4:11 pm

      That is a lovely tradition. Immigrant parents sure are creative.

  7. December 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    This is a beautiful Christmas story! But the part about you knowing karate, priceless.

    • Pop
      December 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      Thank you. But trust me – you wouldn’t want a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these bad boys.

  8. December 15, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Damn you for making me cry while I’m supposed to be doing laundry. I hope you’re happy. This is a really, really sweet memory – My 8yo niece just found out about the tooth fairy and I know this is probably the last year she’ll believe in Santa. I just hope she’s smart enough to keep the secret from her two little sisters and my BabyE!

    • Pop
      December 15, 2010 at 4:13 pm

      For some reason, I feel like you hit “Post Comment” too early. I thought your comment should’ve read:

      “I just hope she’s smart enough to keep the secret from her two little sisters and my BabyE! Or else…”

  9. December 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I think it’s very cool you didn’t ruin it for your sister! What a good brother! I remember seeing a price tag and wondering why Santa would buy gifts…didn’t even put the two things together.

    I don’t remember my first Christmas memory, isn’t that strange?

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:32 am

      These days, I wonder if kids would wonder if Santa included a gift receipt.

  10. December 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Your dads not Bruce Lee?!?!?!?!

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:40 am

      If you think lesser of me, I’ll understand.

  11. liz
    December 15, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Memory is tool #1, and spelling is tool #2. Our spelling days are numbered…

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:41 am

      Oh man, I’m so not looking forward to the days when we can’t spell things out. Maybe we should delay this whole phonics training thing? πŸ˜›

      • TK
        December 22, 2010 at 1:24 pm

        My husband and I use the military alphabet to spell things out to each other. A- Alpha, B- Bravo, C- Charlie….etc. If you both learn it, you will extend your spelling things out to each other for years. =)

        And I would like to add that you should be getting paid to write. Whether it’s hallmark cards or children’s stories…someone should pony up the dough.

  12. kim
    December 15, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    How incredible that your parents, in a strange new country, adopted a holiday that I’m assuming celebrated something other than their own religion? To make you and your sister happy. I never thought of it from this point of view before. What amazing love.

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

      Reflecting back on it now, it’s amazing how “American” our upbringing was. My parents worked pretty hard to ensure we embraced both our heritage and our new country.

  13. December 15, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Aw, feck. I’m not sure I can recall the first memory, but an early one was when all I wanted was a baby doll and I got a black baby doll. An african american fro’d doll. And I loved that thing so much. Not to mention, we had zero other ethnicity-d families where I lived. I just wanted it and got it and loved it.

    I’m not sure what the heck i’ll do when the kids realize he ain’t real. I’m not ready.

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:47 am

      That’s an awesome memory.

      Although you may not be ready, I’m sure the gifts from Santa will stop.

  14. liv
    December 16, 2010 at 10:51 am

    aw… i’m going to go cry now.

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

      I think any 1st-born of an immigrant family understands. πŸ™‚

  15. December 17, 2010 at 10:47 am

    that is very sweet. i’m amazed that you understood the love behind your gifts at such a young age.
    S is only 2 so honestly we aren’t giving gifts, just a stocking we put together at a decorating party with friends. I dont really want christmas to be about the gifts, but rather the memories and traditions we create as a family and the time we spend together. this year i wish for S lots of quality time with his daddy since we have him home for christmas break!

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:52 am

      That’s a lovely wish for S! And yeah, last year, we got D2 something small but going forward, we also want to teach her that Christmas isn’t just about receiving gifts, but giving them as well. So we’ll give some gifts to Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, and other programs.

  16. December 17, 2010 at 11:54 am

    You’re allowed a little poetic license with Christmas memories.

    For example, I may not have REALLY saved a holiday tour full of nuns and orphans from crashing their charter plane into the Matterhorn that one year in Switzerland, but…it’s the holidays. What’s a little embellishment between friends?

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:53 am

      I’m sure your randynog aids in the embellishment also.

  17. December 19, 2010 at 12:41 am

    I’m feeling particularly sappy tonight, and this post totally resonates with me. Christmas isn’t about the biggest or most expensive presents. It’s about giving and love to honor the birth of Christ. Your parents taught you that lesson at a young age. xoxo

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:58 am

      I really hope I can teach D1 and D2 the same thing at a young age, not just to understand the reason for the season, but also to save my wallet! Especially since D1 is a girly-girl πŸ˜›

  18. December 19, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    You know what’s funny?

    I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus. Not ever. I must have at one point, but I have no memory of that.

    But I do remember working very hard not to spoil the magic for my younger brothers and sisters. I remember one Christmas Eve on which my younger sister and I stayed up late, and I convinced her that I had heard reindeer on the roof and Santa’s sleigh. It seemed vital that she believe even though I did not.

    As a mom?

    I tell my girls that not everyone believes in Santa Claus, but that those who do not? Don’t get presents from Santa Claus.

    So they humor me.


    And you, sir?

    Your parents were awesome.

    As were you.

    I love this story.

    Happy sighs.

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 10:58 am

      Thanks Kris. Oh, and I never told my parents that I figured it out πŸ˜›

  19. December 19, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Your parents? Awesome. I can’t imagine trying to adapt to a new country with no money or frame of reference to draw from. What a wonderful story.

    • Pop
      December 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

      Thank you. And they were and continue to be awesome.

  20. December 20, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Ack, you mean Santa isn’t really Chinese? What will I tell MY kids?

    Seriously, this was such a sweet post. And what a sweet prayer for your daughters. I can’t think of a better first Christmas memory than to have the gift of parents that love them so much.

  21. December 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve missed reading you lately (I’m so behind on reading my blogs!), and here’s a perfect example of why! You are like “Steel Magnolias” to me – “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Great story.

    Oh, and for the kid’s memories – it only gets worse. Three-year-old S mentioned a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving that we needed to put up the Christmas tree I painted last year. Sorry, what? After much discussion, I finally remembered what she was talking about. We have a fake tree and they come with paint on the metal stems to help you organize them into the right layers, but it’s cheap paint that rubs off after one use and the colors all looks the same anyway. So last year, when I put the tree up, I painted the stems with different bright colors. It was a year ago. She was 2.5. We never mentioned it again. CRAZY good memory.

  22. December 20, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    That’s a sweet story. I remember running out on Christmas morning to find piles of toys on the couch. Seemed like piles. Our stockings would be on top, stuffed with fruit. My husband laughs when I tell him that was the only time of year we had fruit. I hope my girls will be happy with scooters this year.

  23. December 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    When I was two years old all I wanted for Christmas was a Pillsbury doughboy. I’d seen the commercials and heard him giggle when someone poked his stomach and wanted one for myself. And I got one. Only years and years later did I discover that back then you couldn’t just go out and get a toy of any character on TV, so my mom wrote all these letters to Pillsbury telling them about my Christmas request and asking if there was some way she could get a doll and they sent her one for free. Which is kinda sad when compared to your memory, in which you’re an amazing, grateful child, while I was a girl obsessed with corporate mascots.

  24. December 22, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    That is quite a humble first memory of Christmas. Mine is not as humble, and rather cruel for the other kids. My mom never helped me believe in Santa and pretty much told me he didn’t exist. Silly me, I told all of my classmates and I remember several of them in tears, telling me I was a liar…

    No need to say that my own kids very strongly believe in Santa Claus, even though I’m so close to calling up the big guy and asking him to deliver some coal with my kids’ presents! πŸ˜‰

  25. December 28, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    What a sweet story! And you raise a good point about wondering when our kids’ long term memories are hitting the record button . . . in other words, which episodes will they use against in therapy?

  26. December 31, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Happy New Year, Pop. Hope your Christmas was joyous.

  27. ludicrousmama
    January 6, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    My first memory was when my mom told me there was no Santa. Apparently I was fairly young. I think I was 4. I had a life-size Santa photo poster on my bedroom door and I asked my mom if he was going to step out of the poster instead of come through the chimney. Apparently she decided it was time to squelch the magic of Christmas. I mean, forcing your terrified child to sit on some dude’s lap in exchange for candy is one thing, but having your child huddled terrified in her bed, thinking that some dude’s gonna come into her bedroom Christmas morning is another thing!
    At least I got to help keep the magic alive for my siblings longer. The saps! πŸ™‚

  28. January 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    So… what’s new with your new year?

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