Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas is in the Heart

I can't single out one Christmas over another; one that stands out as the best Christmas ever for each year presents a different story of circumstance and expectations. But I can say that those Christmases spent in the country will remain in my heart forever. My aunt who swam like Esther Williams would on occasion say that youth is wasted on the young. I never understood what that meant until later in life. As a child, growing up in that row of 4 houses full of relatives was just the way it was to me. Having cousins, aunts, and uncles as part of my daily routine along with the surrounding fields and pastures; woods and old barn and chicken coop clubhouse and meandering creek-all just part of every day life.

No other time of the year brings that all back around like Christmas does. My grandmother baking her cookies and Christmas bread; the heartwarming scent of fresh greens mingling with cinnamon and nutmeg; snow falling-and falling; presents wrapped in tissue paper held together by stickers that often didn't stick; skating under the dancing stars-all and so much more part of life in the country at Christmas time.

I've written before about my favorite Christmas present ever-the pine desk my grandfather made me with the pad of paper and sharpened #2 pencil in its drawer waiting for me. Another gift-a rather simple gift of a pencil and letter holder from my aunt who made awesome candles also comes to mind as a favorite. I don't know why; perhaps because I was able to set the gift on my desk and use them when pretending to be a writer at a very young age. Funny what we remember isn't it? I think she ordered the set from Miles Kimball. At least I remember seeing the catalog and a few weeks later saw her walking down the cinder driveway to the mailbox where there was a package waiting so naturally I thought the package was for me!

There was one aunt who lived faraway. She was beautiful; always wore a single strand of pearls and lipstick and cardigan sweaters. Because she'd had polio growing up, she walked with a limp. She never had children. My cousins, siblings, and I were her children. When she came for Christmas it was an overload of excitement for her presents were always among our favorites. Not just because of what was inside but because of the way she wrapped them. She never used tissue paper. Rather, each gift was wrapped in brightly decorated paper with curly ribbon and bows. Every gift she'd either sent ahead or carried through the door was wrapped like this-meticulously-with corners tucked just so and edges folded over. I remember one year in particular when she came home for Christmas. I'd written her; asked for a particular doll; even sent a picture of it. Turns out I didn't get the doll and my disappointment was obvious. That Valentine's day I received the doll in the mail.

So many Christmases-so many memories. From my brother coming home from Vietnam and surprising my parents to my father dying on December 22nd and everything else in between. Point is-each Christmas writes its own story. Each Christmas offers its own memories which we can take and tuck away in our hearts-for that is where the Spirit of Christmas exists-forever.

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