Fond memories of Christmas past

“Said the night wind to the little lamb.”
A beautiful Christmas carol that always gets me wondering—wondering about Christmas memories and trying to categorize them down from most favourite, which is impossible because they’re all wonderful.
If I had to choose, it would be the quiet and magic of Christmas Eve.
I liked lying under the Christmas tree with all the lights out, save the ones on the tree. I would put Perry Como on the record player, the old, well-worn 78 that played “The Night Before Christmas.”
The joy and privilege I felt in those moments far surpassed anything that Christmas Day could bestow. I would have been eight or nine years old in my particular Christmas that is set on replay in my memory.
My sister and I shared a room and more than once we heard eight tiny reindeer, and the prancing and pawing of each little hoof on our rooftop. We opened the window one Christmas and craned our necks to see the roof before we realized—in the nick of time— that if Santa saw us, he would know we were not sleeping and the repercussions would have been enormous; the potential for disaster extreme.
One Christmas Eve, we even saw him open our bedroom door, and thank goodness we were just about asleep and had quit whispering a good five minutes earlier. That was a close one.
And yes, when we woke up Christmas morning, the excitement was pretty extreme. But we knew in our hearts that it was the waiting, the wishing, the imagining, the awe evoked by candles and carols and the smell of the tree, freshly cut from our forest.
We knew the wonder came from something greater than gifts and treats. We knew the love we were blessed with in our hearts and the gratitude that was tucked in with all the joy.
Christmas isn’t the same anymore. It couldn’t possibly be; we’ve grown up. The old record player is gone; the thread-bare grey rug in my childhood piano room where the tree had the place of honour is gone.
Actually, the whole house is gone now, buried right where it stood, an old and beaten house long before it became our home. My children are grown, living lives of their own, carving and shaping traditions that mark Christmas for them.
The best Christmas memories include those rare occasions when almost everyone, or so it seemed, came to our farm for Christmas. One year it meant blankets and pillows over every inch of our living room.
It meant I had to return to my crib even though I had graduated from it a significant amount of time earlier. My parents had taken the sides off the crib, but they weren’t fooling anyone; it was still a crib and I may have been in a bit of a snit, despite all the fun and laughter.
The kitchen was an assembly line, the music was constant, the tobogganing unsurpassed.
Every year at some point during the holidays, we lined up everyone on the worn couch in the living room, kids perched on shoulders and in arms and the flash would snap—the film capturing our new clothes or hat or toy that we found under the tree, as well as cousins and aunts and uncles, the mistletoe in the doorway, a community of love and support.
We took time to bow our heads in thanks and we never forgot to mention those who, unlike us, were alone or worried or the year had been a difficult one, Christmas magnifying the loss.
Our parents passed on that measuring of what has value, the truth of Christmas that can’t be found beneath shiny paper or hidden under the tree, and for that I am truly grateful. It is my obligation to carry that forward.
I think I shall always be a child on Christmas Eve, in the dark, ’neath the tree, with Perry Como crooning in my ear. I will always want my sister next to me in the car watching out the back window to see if we can see Santa and his sleigh on Christmas Eve, listening for the radio news report saying Santa had been sighted.
The years will fall away like peeling birch bark, and I’ll be glad for all the memories that get carefully wrapped away; safely stored until next Christmas.
“Do you hear what I hear?” I hope so.
Merry Christmas.
wendistewart@live.ca

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