Christmas 1970 at 918 Willsie Avenue, Rapid City, South Dakota. (After looking at the google street map, the neighborhood has devolved since my last visit there in 1984, sad.)
This year we ‘flocked’ the tree ourselves, copying what the Martha Stewart of our family (my aunt) had done the year before. That big white box with the red cross bow is an antique lamp that I had bought for my mother (it was silver plate, a kerosene lamp re-purposed for the Edison century with a lovely, milky glass shade, a few years later, my mother had a local artist paint blue flowers all over the glass shade and somewhere in the depths of my garage, today, it rests in a box, carefully wrapped and cushioned, most likely never to be used again–although I did try to scrub the flowers off once, but they seemed to have been applied with car paint, tant pis, and yes, I know that adding tant pis was a gratuitous use of the French language, but if I don’t use it, it will languish like the lamp, wrapped in old Paris Match magazines, stored in a musty corner of my brain.)
Secret: sometimes when I would get home from high school in the afternoon and I would have the house to myself for a couple of hours before my mother got home from the air force base where she did something relatively important (high security clearance, no less), I would draw the drapes in the living room and the dining room (a great room before there were great rooms, but small, because you know, we lived on the other side of the tracks and the creek, the house was no bigger than a cracker box with a roof on it). I would fill the house with music, my music, my generation’s music (I had a fondness for female singer/songwriters/poets: Joni, Joan, Janis, Laura) and I would take off my shoes and move furniture out of the way and I would dance. Dance by myself & tip & swirl & jeté & dream of being partnered by Nureyev or any other magical, masculine creature (Pan perhaps), stopping between tracks to catch my breath, look at myself in the mirror and dream of a life where what I hardly understood would/could be true.
As soon as I left home to go to university and then, later, I set aside Christmas, but now, now in 1970 I was committed to Christmas as were my friends. We went to the same Four Square Evangelical church, we sang in the choir, we did deeds (good ones, I think) and after church, we would go to A & W on 8th St. (Hwy. 16 to Mt. Rushmore) in my car, a 1963 powder blue Ford Falcon, affectionately (and perhaps presciently) known as the “Mud Queen”, and laugh and giggle and my best friend, Alan, would make out with Sarah or Katherine or any other young girl who would fall under his sway. He wasn’t particularly good-looking, but he was magnetic, with a gravelly singing voice and musical talent pouring off of him that the girls, our classmates, found irresistible. He was not a crush of mine. I would look at him in the rear-view mirror with his arm around someone and he always seemed so happy then. That particular happiness eluded me then, but i never begrudged him his.