December 24, the day after December 23 and the day before December 25, also known as Christmas Eve. For some people this day is a day of preparation, anticipation and celebration, but for others it is a day of sadness, fear and dread. We all have different life experiences, and good or bad, they make us who we are. For me, Christmas was always a time of wonder, joy and just a touch of magic. That child lives on inside of me, and sometimes I can still experience the world through her eyes.
Thinking back to Christmases past brings a smile to my face. I believed in Santa Claus probably well past his normal expiration date. My 11-year-old self was devastated to find out that Mommy and Daddy were the mystery behind Santa. Nonetheless, Christmas at our house was always fun. What I remember more significantly than any of the specific gifts is the joy they brought.
Santa always left at least one “BIG” gift under the tree. I remember one year though my sister and I had finished opening our gifts, and neither of us had received our big gift. We were both a little dumb-founded, but that state of mind was quickly abandoned by excitement over the “present hunt”. That year Santa had gotten rather creative, hiding my sister’s new bike in the shed, with a clue to my new television tucked away inside our camper. Thirty some years later, I can still put myself into that moment and remember the thrill of finding her bike and my clue.
There were gifts painstakingly crafted by my father, gifts that are still in use today. My sister inherited the huge wooden toy box he made us, and I the two-story, wallpapered, carpeted, fully furnished with handmade furniture dollhouse. Both of us have wooden doll cradles and long wooden inchworms that serve as purse/belt or coat hangers. Both my sister and I also have refurbished childhood rocking chairs that belonged to our mother and father, respectively.
Cherished is the word that comes to mind when I think back to childhood Christmases. I can remember the year I asked for a racetrack. My grandfather put it together on the dining room table and then he and my dad proceeded to “test it out” for me. My grandmother, who was rather eccentric, had a hanging Christmas tree that was nothing more than a round wooden base with lights running up to hook in the ceiling. It definitely wasn’t traditional, but it was Gran Jean’s tree and we loved it. She also put wrapped gifts that were really empty boxes under her faux tree. Ironically enough, none of the packages, real or otherwise were labeled, but somehow she always knew what they were and to whom they belonged.
After I married and moved out, my husband and I got to become part of the magic. Our first Christmas as Mr. & Mrs., with younger siblings still at home, we bought huge cookie cakes that said “Love Santa” and quietly crept into the homes of both families, while everyone slept, leaving the cookies under their trees. You can imagine the drama that unfolded in both of those houses Christmas morning.
Sadly, not everyone can look back at Christmases past with joy and gratitude. For some people Christmas brings back painful memories, ones of loss, hurt and rejection. Nothing can change what happened in the past, or even fully erase the hurtful memories. But, what everyone does have the power to change is the future. The beauty of life is that we get to choose how we respond. If your life is filled with painful memories, I encourage you to push beyond that pain to create new, happier ones.
I’m not suggesting some type of idyllic Norman Rockwell existence, more of a tiny baby step – – write a letter to a friend telling them how special they are to you; adopt someone for Christmas and lavish them with the precious gift of your time; serve Christmas dinner to those less fortunate; pay for a stranger’s dinner; offer to run errands for a single mom.
The options are limitless and the rewards are life changing.
Until Next Time,
Becky J Miller