Tinsel, Treasures, and Toyland: Christmas Memories

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It’s Christmas.

I admit, I haven’t been as present as I would like to be. I’ve been pulled emotionally into familiar spaces, lamenting the loss of loved ones: those who are no longer living and those who are too distant to allow connection. At times, I’m swept up in grief which leads to isolation due to my angry and embittered tongue. The noise of life, its complexities, and heartaches entrap me. Still yet, there is life, light, and peace expanding around me. I often feel guilty for this newly discovered joy that continues to blossom despite the chaos that enfolds personally in my life and on the global stage. Life is messy, hard, and heartbreaking at times. Christmas is soft, beautiful, and peaceful. The contrast has captured my spirit, leaving me longing for acceptance of “what is” while increasing opportunities for joy and peace.

The holidays have a way of leaving you longing for more, desiring the magic and intensity of when you first experienced them. As a child, you were mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the seasons and protected from much of the harshness outside the season. I can remember sitting in the dark with only the Christmas tree lights, listening to Doris Day singing Toyland and other captivating tunes. The lights twinkled and I was completely absorbed in the present moment. Christmas parties meant delicious goodies from lemon bars caked in powdered sugar to cheese balls covered in nuts with fancy crackers. My senses were often overloaded as I gazed upon the decorations of the Season, my favorite being brass angel chimes with candles. It was all magical to me at the time. The presents, the lights, the music, and the cheer made for an exhilarating, exciting time. I was never once disappointed at Christmas. As an adult, I realize now that the world was spinning the same then as it does now, but my parents had protected me from ever seeing their exhaustion or worry. It is a blessing I am eternally grateful for having received.

I continue to embrace the season with excitement, but often get pulled into the struggle of life. I’d like to let go this season and embrace the child who was captivated and full.

I miss my Grandmother and her huge heart during the Christmas season. She was a foster parent and she ensured all the children in her care had gifts to open up Christmas morning. I will never know how she did it as I never asked her. But, she’d make 12 dozen or more sugar cookies and decorate them all! All the presents were wrapped and under the tree when Christmas morning came. Often there were so many gifts that they’d spill out filling the whole room and were stacked up behind the tree, taller than her. It was a magical sight to see! She usually had 15 children or more in her care and she made sure each child, big or small, got presents from Santa. I can remember most of the kids, including myself, getting roller skates! She lived in Florida and had an outdoor patio where we would skate all day outside when it wasn’t storming or raining. These memories are so long ago that they are faint, but still near and dear to my heart. She always loved Christmas, and since she has been gone we all try to make her sugar cookies, but they never turn out just like her cookies did. I’ll be making a batch soon, hoping to get close to her magical sugar cookies!

My mother continued the tradition of big Christmases with lots of gifts and treats. Our family grew up in the Lutheran church and Christmas Eve always meant going to the midnight candlelight service. The end of the service was beautiful as we each held a lit candle singing silent night among other carols. We would head home and I would often jump into bed with my older sister and try to sleep a wink. LOL. I was always the early riser, sometimes getting up by 4 or 5 eager to see what Santa brought! Looking back I really don’t see how my Mom and Dad didn’t want to kill me for waking them when they probably had just fell asleep!  I’d run out to the Christmas tree and scout out any unwrapped gifts. I’d go back and let my sister know what was left out, unwrapped. One special year, I remember being delighted to get a shiny, new Schwinn bike. A stuffed snoopy was sitting nearby and my sisters stereo also was left out, unwrapped. I was my big sister’s informant and she often rolled over, still sleepy, encouraging me to stay in bed. I’m forever grateful for my parents for letting me be a kid, excited and eager, often unable to wait to tear into the presents.

Writing this has left me in a treasured space. I don’t have children and am currently estranged from my sister and her adult children. It’s hard, but it is “what is” for now. I have been struggling to accept where things have landed and writing about these beautiful, treasured memories fills me with joy and peace. I will always be eternally grateful for parents who not only allowed me to “be a kid”, but actively ensured each Christmas was joyful and happy. They should feel full for the memories they created every year without fail. They were such special times and I felt very loved and cared for during the season. I was oblivious to any care or concern they might have had and they both worked, my Mom often working nights, even at Christmas, as she is a nurse. I know they were often exhausted and I was a burst of excitement and anticipation. They never acted annoyed or tired. It is a true gift in the end.

Writing this has renewed my spirit and inspired me. Often we forget and lose our way. I’m going to let go as much as I am able. I’m going to make some of my Grandma’s sugar cookies, go see the lights of the season, and listen to Doris Day’s, Toyland. It really doesn’t get any better that this! I’m feeling the spirit now! Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you find the peace and joy inside of you!

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