December 4, 2008

Christmas Magic

I was driving through town a few days ago, and I had the Christmas music station cranked up. I took special note of the wreaths on street lamps, the Christmas lights on buildings, the decor from place to place; and it filled me with nostalgia.

How is it possible that seeing a Christmas wreath brings into instant recall all those mornings of unyielding bliss - eager anticipation of what lay beyond the wrapping paper, my mom's chocolate covered cherry balls, more food than you could shake a turkey leg at, friends, chaos, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole on the record player (yes, record player) and Dad stuck in the corner futzing with the ginormous video camera on the tripod and shuffling the still camera around his neck. Fire in the fireplace - always. Mom fussing with our huge breakfast. My brothers and I salivating over every gift tag which bore our name in red letters. The stockings so full, they had to be taken off their hooks and laid down on the ground. A plate with crumbs signaling that our precious Santa had made his visit. Hugs and kisses from Grandma, Grandpa, then Aunt each one arrived to our house carrying even more gifts to stuff under our already busting at the seams tree base. Too much food, the smell of morning coffee, and finally...Grandpa dons the red Santa hat and finds his way to sit down by the tree and start calling out names; presents and wrapping paper begin flying around the room in rapid succession.

Later we're spent and completely captivated by our treasures. "Open this up for me, Dad!" "Grandma, can you help me put this together?" "Mom, I don't want to try it on now - later!!" Then falling unaware into a dreamy nap-time to the smell of turkey or ham. Mom changed it from year to year.


That was such a nice memory for me just kidding. I almost don't want to finish the post.

But what happened to that?

I guess I grew up. And I figured out that it took hard work and hard earned money to pull off that stint every year. My Dad worked three jobs to make those two paragraphs above a reality for us every year. My Grandpa worked the same and didn't retire until his 70's.

Suddenly, I'm finally realizing as an adult that it took a lot of energy, a lot of talent, time and love for my parents to host such extravagant Christmas magic for the four of us kids. The Christmas Eve's that my mom hustled us into bed and spent hours wrapping presents, and my Dad assembling a miscellaneous cornucopia of toys, bikes, and Barbie Dream Houses. The untold hours that my Mom and Grandma spent in the kitchen slaving over holiday treats and Christmas Feasts. My back hurts just thinking about it. The countless emotional and physical (not to mention financial) expense that went into those moments - to make them everything that they were - so that today I could recount it with such warmth in my heart for the memory.

I'm not saying Christmas is about money. I'm truly not. But I am saying that it's hard to take a holiday that has such huge standards in my heart - holds some of my fondest memories of my childhood and family time - and wrap it up into a whole new package for my own children. I'm afraid I can't even come close.

I know what you're probably thinking: make it your own. I know - but I can't. I'm so fond of those memories. I just want them back. I want to take Quint and plop him down right in the middle of them, so that he can see, smell, taste, hear...everything that I did as a child. To feel that magic.

How do I make it magical for him in this today?

Ask my mom (if you could) - it was magical. Even to her, all these years later...all that hard work she and my Dad did...they will still tell you it was a magical time for our family.

I think the lesson for me, is that by putting so much into whatever it is that makes this holiday special for you - you're keeping that magic going. Even if it changes shape, or takes on new meaning. If it's reading Christ's birth story to your kids. Attending a Christmas Eve Candlelight service. Baking like mad and delivering them to all your family and friends. Making crafts, caroling, shopping, serving food at a shelter, having friends over, seeing The Nutcracker - or all of the above. You're hard work pays off, because you're passing the magic on to your kids and giving them what you had - in a sense. They won't see all the work that goes into it until they're adults, like me - and driving down the street and hear a Christmas song their mom used to hum while making their favorite dessert or smell Christmas tree pine and recall their Dad getting the tree to just the right angle in the living room. I guess the important thing is that it will be magic in their eyes, and that magic will linger on into their future.

Just like it has for me.

Just like it will for Quint...starting now...


Kim said...

AMAZING memories..
Every family has their own little bit of Christmas memories and you will make the most wonderful moments for Quint and Keira...
I can't wait to hear..
Have an AMAZING weekend..
Hugs girly..

Briana's Mom said...

Beautiful post!

Eloise said...

I think as I've gotten older, I appreciate more that *different* doesn't equate to *worse.*

You will always hold your Christmas memories dear in your heart, but so will Quint, even if you can't recreate the exact same tableau for him that you enjoyed as a girl. You will bring the same love into Quint's Christmases that your parents and grandparents brought into yours, and he WILL feel the magic of Christmas. I promise.

Cut yourself some slack, sweet Christie! You are doing a wonderful job with that precious son of yours.

Merry Christmas!

Christy said...

I totally love those memories. I have them too and they are magical and I think-- are we doing everything we can for our kids to give them the same magical experience so that when they are adults they can look back with fond memoires? I hope so. We try and one of the things we are starting is set traditions that we do every year so that the kids can look forward to them. I remember the traditions we had as kids and loved them! We are trying to focus on the reason for the season but it is hard when so much of the season is geared around presents and what you GET. I dont like that and want to move away from the plentitude of gifts and try to make it more about Jesus' birth. We are trying but each year we get caught up in the buying thing like everyone else.

Anyway, I loved this post and it took me back!! This is going to be a very special chritsmas for your family!!!

Chrisyt :)

Anonymous said...

You are an amazing writer and I cannot believe how much I can relate to this Christmas post. Amid tears, I found myself inserting my boys' names into "Just like it will for Quint...starting now..." The above comment from Eloise was very comforting, too. Thank you and Merry Christmas. ~Holly

Kristy said...

Oh Christie it is funny that you post about this because just the other day Frank and I were driving over to my mom and dads and I admitted how different the holidays are now since all of my grandparents are gone. Even though I am 41 and they have all been gone now for 6 years it just is not the same. It hurts me to admit that but somehow the holidays never let you grow up, I will always be that same little girl that absolutely loved the holidays with her family and all 50 or 60 of us are still always together , not just for the holidays but all the time , but Thanksgiving and Christmas are just NOT the same. I feel so inadequate in the memory making department you know. I know that we have traditions but they are not the traditions I knew. I gues it really is hard to make an old dog learn new tricks. I guess also I am different this year because I just know that this is the last Christmas that my Momma will know who we are and it hurts so bad.

I am so sure that you are making perfect memories and traditions for Quint and soon Keira. I don't know where all of this came from but thank you for listening.
God bless you and yours!
Love, Kristy