The most memorable Christmas experiences, for me have always been those that were filled with love. There's just something about love that's lasting.
I was adopted at 3-days old and my new parents were terrific; I was very lucky. My folks were only 8th grade educated and were very 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, we always invited her to spend Christmas eve at our house. We had a beautiful fireplace. She'd wake up with us Christmas morning and we'd all open our gifts together.
Gramma slept in the other twin bed in my son’s room because she adored Jon and vice versa. She also adored our fireplace. I can still picture my dear mother perched in a white
wingback chair with her feet on the ottoman just to the side of our fireplace. She thought she was in heaven. It’s a very loving memory that has stuck with me for years. I have a picture of her in that chair, with the fire roaring and a huge smile on her face. It has a special place on the bureau in my bedroom.
Another loving 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 with gifts each year along with the obligatory candy, an orange, apple and nuts. I’d guess it held 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. Some were traditions: his personalized calendars and his yearly horoscope book – but everything else was always a complete surprise! Watching him take time to unwrap and delight in each item filled my heart with joy.
After Jon went off to college and eventually went 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 I always made the Santa participation a part of Christmas morning. 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 each 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 love 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. Luckily I have a photo to capture each of the situations I've just described and those photos instantly transport me back to those wonderful situations where I'm flooded with warmth and love.
What are your favorite, memories around this 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.