Countdown to Christmas

It’s countdown to Christmas! What holiday memories cling to you like pine sap? Mine replay every year.

When I was four, I was a determined little stinker. (My older brother and sister said so; therefore, it must be true.) I lined up my dolls on the sofa. Each sat up, facing the fireplace. Walking from one to the other, I said, “You wake me when Santa comes!”

My dad wore a big, secretive smile. He was jealous, of course, because I was going to meet the REAL Santa while he slept and snored until Christmas morn. I took one last look and marched upstairs, dragging Cat, my fluffy toy with a bell in its ear. Bump. Bump. Bumpity-bump. It was Cat’s job to jingle me awake as the dolls raced into my room.

Christmas Eve passed. Christmas morning came. I raced downstairs. Bump. Bump. Bumpity-bump. Cat bounced beside me, holding tightly with its paw. Imagine my surprise at seeing, not one, but ALL OF MY DOLLS asleep on the sofa! Oh, the disappointment. I didn’t know why Dad kept smiling for weeks.

When I was old enough to help decorate, I learned that “seeking perfection” sours the moments. Dad’s job was to hang silver tinsel after Mom roped red garland around the tree. I watched Mom and began looping garland. No. No. No. “Start at the top, not the bottom. Make even loops.” So…I watched Dad. I grabbed strands of tinsel and tossed, hoping the shiny ribbons would magically wrap around the end of a branch and fall gracefully in parallel lines. No. No. No. “One tinsel at a time.” Watching Mom and Dad wasn’t as much fun as helping. When our son was old enough, I caught myself stressing as I watched him lob loops of ribbon around the tree’s bottom. Then I remembered what it felt like “watching” instead of helping. I laughed with my son and let go.

After turning 21, Dad served us Brandy Alexanders made with ice cream. We dressed up fancy for our silent home movies and made silly faces for the camera. When Auntie Mamie and Uncle Johnny visited, we played Charades. After downing several of Dad’s “hospitable drinks,” we let loose. Memories of our gaming nights and uproarious laughter make me laugh until I get melancholy over long-ago family times.

As a young adult, I had many alone Christmases when flying home was too expensive. I celebrated with other families and hid my loneliness. Long-distance phone calls didn’t help.

Memories are tricky mind moments colored by our emotions. When my siblings and I compare memories, we remember differently. So…we can’t let memories define our holidays. But we can build new moments. Maybe they’ll turn memorable. Maybe not.

Christmas is not about us. It’s about Christ—His unending love for all people. Whether we’re believers or nonbelievers, we must do “good” in this world. Build a good memory for someone. A Walmart “greeter” told me that few shoppers smile anymore. They grab stuff in Grinch-like fashion, forgetting that Christmas “doesn’t come from a store.”

This Christmas a dear, dear friend is struggling to create mini-memories while cancer spreads rapidly, suffocating his body. Four of us go out to eat. We talk of life, of death, of sports, of Donald Trump. We love on one another. We hug. We cry. We laugh. We build moments for him and of him.

Moments are all any of us really have….May we live in the moment this Christmas and help someone create a memory to last a lifetime, no matter the length of that life.

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