The most memorable Christmas experiences seem to be, for me at least, those that were filled with lots of love. There's just something about love that lasts forever.
I was adopted at 3-days old and my new parents were the perfect ones for me, any surprise? They helped set the tone for the rest of my life, what I was to learn and how I was to grow. They didn't teach any of those things, they were just the environment that made "me" possible. My folks were only 8th grade educated and were sweet and simple people. My dad was a boilermaker welder and my mom was a homemaker. They had friends galore because mom was a wonderful listener and my dad was the kind of guy who would do anything for a friend.
I remember my mother always dreamed of having a fireplace in her home, which never happened for her, but after my father died, on Christmas eve we'd always invite her to spend that night and Christmas day at our house. We had a beautiful fireplace and from one of those special Christmas times, I have a photo of my dear mother perched in a white wingback chair with her feet on the ottoman just to the side of our fireplace. She believed she was in heaven. That photo sits proudly on the dresser in my bedroom. It’s a very loving memory of her with the fire roaring and a huge smile on her face. A Christmas memory that is brimming over with love.
Another such memory occurred over a series of Christmases that lasted for decades. When my son Jon was young, something possessed me to buy a giant stocking for him. I think he was about 12-years old at the time. It was large enough to hold a 9-month-old child and there’d still be extra room. It cost a fortune to fill that stocking since although I had the obligatory orange, apple, nuts and candy, there were also 25 or so wrapped gifts ranging from fascinating food products from a gourmet store (Jon liked to cook) to clothing accessories (belts/ties/cufflinks) and from sports memorabilia to framed photos and books. Honestly, each year the gifts were different and because I loved being creative, Jon was always enthralled with every gift I'd discover. The best part is since I wrapped each gift, Jon had to take a little time to unwrap each and it magnified the anticipation and eventual delight. Some of the gift I gave were annual traditions: his personalized calendars (12 pages that included photos from his childhood) and his yearly horoscope book – but everything else was always a complete surprise! Christmas morning Jon couldn't wait to open his gifts, which he always loved, but his stocking was the best.
After Jon went off to college and eventually out on his own, he came home every Christmas Eve and slept in his old room so he could come downstairs and open his stocking first thing. He did that every year until he married. Even after that, that ginormous stocking remained a tradition in our family and when his wife, Jodie, became part of the group, she had one too.
Anyway, one year, when Jon was still single, he decided that after mass on Christmas Eve, he was going to spend the night at a friends’ house and said he’d be back in the morning to dive into his stocking, open his other gifts and celebrate the day with us.
“What stocking?” I said with absolutely no expression. “Those aren't my stockings, Santa delivers them and when he flies over the house he looks down—he drops off the stockings to whoever he sees sleeping in our beds. If you’re not here, I’m not sure what he’ll do.”
I was dead serious since Santa was always alive and part of Christmas at our house. Besides, it was fun to add extra gifts from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Mrs. Clause, the Elves and Santa, himself. Jon didn’t hesitate with his response.
“Of course, I’ll be here.” he quipped.
Jon didn't even questions my response because he loved Santa being involved, too, and absolutely nothing would stand in the way of his magnificent stocking experience on Christmas morning. Actually, I have a photo of Jon about 40-years old – probably the last time I did the large stocking for him – holding that huge stocking between his knees with a huge Cheshire Cat grin on his face, ready to once again embark on one of his favorite experiences. I adore that photo.
Our Christmases were always filled with giving and love. The gifts weren’t always expensive but they were always thoughtful and creative—and generally a total surprise to those who received them. The photos I have of each of the formentioned experiences instantly transport me back to those wonderful ties and I'm flooded, once again, with warmth and love.
What are your favorite, memories surrounding the holiday season? If you can’t think of one— maybe this is the year to begin creating one. A memory that will be lasting and on which you’ll look back, feel warmth and smile. It doesn’t have to be a gift you purchase. Instead it could be just a call that surprises an old friend, maybe the few extra dollars you give to someone on the street who looks truly in-need or maybe it is just taking some left-over dessert to a neighbor who didn’t expect it.
This is the season for love, for lots of love—for living it, sharing it and for remembering it. Merry Christmas.