Memories For Christmas
In all of my years, at all of my Christmases, there is one Christmas present that stands out above the rest. The original Millennium Falcon action toy. This was the big boy - more than two feet across. Although for the 7-year old me, it felt like five or six.
The cockpit opened up, providing you a place to stick Han and Chewy. The top pulled off revealing seats for Luke, Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2. And of course it had the dejarik hologame table. (Only the hardcore geeks will know what that is). It was huge, it was awesome, it was played with for hours and hours, and I still remember walking out to the living room that Christmas morning and seeing it sitting under the tree.
For me, Christmas time is as much about making new memories, as it for reflecting on old ones. Yes, when I was a child many of those memories revolved around toys. Dinner in the afternoon was almost an annoyance, because it meant that I was forced to leave my shiny new plaything alone in a corner for a couple of hours. But toys aside, and the joy and anticipation of tearing into a new package not withstanding, memories, from even when I was just a boy, involve so much more.
Christmas has always been a time for family. Few, if any, were spent with just the four of us (my parents, me, and my brother.) We almost always found ourselves with one set of grandparents or another, and the aunts, uncles, and cousins that fit on that side of the family tree. And the locations rotated between our house in Wichita, my grandparents' in Kentucky or California, or Kansas City, Manhattan, KS, Colorado Springs, or Florida.
The routine rarely changed.
Christmas Eve was spent picnicking under the tree. Burgers and deviled eggs were staples, and the star of the night was always my father’s homemade eggnog.
Then Christmas morning we kids, numbering as many as six, would have to line up by age before entering the living room to see what treats Santa had graced us with that year. Then there were family gifts. Then there was play time. Then there were naps (much to relief of the adults who’d been up half the night assembling bikes and installing batteries in everything that Santa brought.) And then traditional Christmas dinner.
Dominating the festivities of course, was always the sound of laughter. From the moment we’d arrive at our holiday destination, or welcome guests into our home, the laughter never stopped. Back in the days before Facebook and cheap long distance phone calls, this might be the only time all year that I would see my cousins and talk to them.
We’d play games as a family. Go on hikes when the weather permitted. Make snow forts when hikes were out of the question. And just spend time sitting and being with the people that were most important in our lives.
I still miss that Millennium Falcon. I’d open it up right now and recreate it flying through the asteroid field if I had it. And if no one was around to judge. But I miss the sound of my grandfather’s voice and pitch of my grandmother’s laugh much more. They have since passed away, and I will never sit across a table from them again. But I will always have the memories.
I miss the time with my cousins and brother, playing Risk and poking fun at each other. And when we were older, driving off to the mall to get away from the “old folks” for an afternoon. They have all since had children of their own, and we all now lead such separate and scattered lives. With each generation the miles seem to expand, while our time together grows shorter. But I will always have the memories.
I miss that time with my parents. The drive to our destination, with me sitting behind my dad, always steady at the wheel. I always felt safe when he was in control. My mom, reading aloud to the car to help pass the time. In an age before CD players, and later phones and iPods, she provided hours of entertainment. And of course seeing both of them with their families over the Christmas week, hearing the stories, watching the interactions, and getting to know my parents how they were as siblings, and as children.
I’ve spent a number of Christmases in the hospital. Or at home, but very sick. But even for those years, the laughter and companionship of family dominates my memories. The joy of delivering gifts. The smiles on faces that result. The happiness that comes with just being. Those moments always outshine the dark, no matter what form the dark takes that particular year.
For me, Christmas will always be special. It’s a time to be grateful for what you have, and a time to remember with gratitude the things you once did.
We are all so lucky. Everyone reading this blog, right now, has someone in this world who loves them. Someone who, if they could, would give them everything they ever desired this Christmas morning. Someone who will laugh with them, be with them, and without hesitation or reservation, wrap their arms around them and wish them a Merry Christmas.
What else could you possibly need?