Call me crazy, but I swear I remember my room from when I was a baby. It was cream and had an old dresser that my grandfather made--or so I've been told. Across from the crib, there was a window that I would look out of. On the wall, a framed photo of a Precious Moments character who was looking up at a hill with three crosses. Or maybe I made that up. Somehow though, whether created from stories and pictures passed down or drawn from near dormant infant subconsciousness, I've built up this memory of standing in my crib and scanning that little nursery with the picture window.
The older I get, the more faded my past grows--the depth of time between now and then slowly dissolving details that were once clear. Like classmates' names, birthday parties, a vivid layout of my grandparent’s home on North Haven.
But there are some memories that stand solid--so precious, they have withstood the test of time, seared with the same magic and awe that accompanied them many years ago.
I remember every Christmas.
I'm so glad I remember Christmas. And knowing just how much work my dad and grandparents put into those memories, I bet they're glad I remember Christmas too.
I laugh about flying my holiday freak flag and yes, I enjoy every flap and furl of its flamboyant presence, but there's a reason for all of this, you know.
I am writing my own history book. And while I might not remember walls of each room in the house I grew up in or the framed art that hung across from the crib precisely as it really was, I will make sure that I’ll always remember the magic and wonder of traditions that draw us closer--a time of year that finishes the common stitches of our everyday memories with fine handiwork and colorful thread that won't be forgotten.
What do I remember about my Christmas past? Well if ordinary memories hold the real past of my childhood, then December opened the wardrobe door to a magical other world. The very essence of childhood--a sense of wonder, imagination, the innocent belief in possibility, creativity--so many of the things that gradually wane with age--it was at its peak this time of year.
I realize now how little money we had--a single father and a roofer’s salary income but my childhood mind says we were rich. At Christmas, there were lights, candles, twinkly things, sparkly things, magical things, music--always music. There was a purpose for everything--the extra effort to add more icing to cinnamon rolls, the last-minute plans to put me in the car to go survey light displays, the new pajamas, the stocking filled with little gifts that were usually my favorite and always Santa’s half eaten cookies after he left goodies under the tree.
As an adult. I realize just how much work it must have been. Hauling gifts and me to the car, driving through blizzards to meet up with family, hiding gifts, and the deliberate effort of creating what they wanted me to feel--that it was special. That my little mind and memories were worth the work.
The night I drove into town to visit my father for Thanksgiving this year, we piled into the car—yes, me wearing my jammies, and drove slowly through the old neighborhood to see the lights. I turned up the radio volume so the Carpenters could come with us, and we searched for a good glowing display and with a healthy sense of humor, poked fun at those that fell below or holiday standards.
It was special--not just for dad, but for me. It's ink on the pages of my book, and I felt satisfied. Contented.
There's a reason I remember childhood Christmases so vividly and a value to them as well. Not only do those storybook memories hold the broken ones together--like the year my parents divorced or the times things didn't make so much sense-- they carved deep grooves in my character. They etched the great worth of tradition, imagination and the wonder of childhood. I have big shoes to fill; my father and grandparents set the bar high. But Heather here, loves a challenge.
You are the author of your family storybook, writing memories and elements of character every day. Make it meaningful. Give the gift of wonder.