I have a multitude of journals, but I so wish that I had kept one just for the Christmas Stories. This Season of Memories is like book anyway; pages open and the stories spill out whether you want them to or not. A song, a fragrance, an image - anything can trigger a flood of emotion - tears or laughter, a peaceful feeling or immense sadness. As difficult as it is, it's good that we have this 'Re-Season' - to re-live, reflect, rejoice, re-connect - remember. Snippets of Christmas Past pop into my head randomly. Sometimes they bring a smile to my heart and sometimes the memory jabs it like a pincushion.
The memory is so clear that it seems like yesterday - driving home from midnight mass at about 11 years of age, being too old to believe in Santa, knowing full well that there wasn't a Santa, but so hoping that that was wrong and he had indeed come to our house while we were at church. He hadn't.
And our first Christmas as newlyweds - feeling so 'grown up' when we had both sets of parents in for refreshments. And that magic of that night, right out of a movie - with great, huge snowflakes falling straight down while the church bells rang out carols.
There was a Christmas that I broke my leg on the 23rd, with plans for vacation from college totally changed to sitting around in a cast for the three weeks.
Of course, the three Christmases that I was expecting the birth of our children at any moment. In the hushed church on Christmas, the miracle of birth was even more pronounced.
And the Christmas, 29 years ago - my first without my Mother & without Christmas as I had always known it. So lost we were as a family. Brian's parents took us in that year and got us through it.
One Christmas Eve, it stormed and my Dad couldn't make it back for our traditional get together. I talked to him on the phone for an hour and a half and he told me things he'd never shared with me. We had more time together and a better conversation than we would have if he'd come to the house.
There were a few years that it stormed. One Christmas we drove through dangerous weather because I could simply not imagine or accept that I couldn't be with my family on Christmas.
Another frigid Christmas Eve, our car broke down on the way to church. My brother, with no hat, gloves or boots walked to the not-so nearby houses to use the phone, but they wouldn't open the door & he had to leave and walk to the next one.
The following year it was just my Dad and I who went to midnight mass - I remember soaking in every moment, worrying that it might be our last. It was.
Seven years ago, Brian's mom passed away unexpectedly, twelve days before Christmas. It would have been her first in her new home. We had no idea what else to do - we'd spent Christmas Day together for over 30 years, so we went to her house anyway. The turkey was bought, there were some gifts under the tree, but the hardest thing was the tin of our cookies in the refrigerator - knowing that it was her precious hands that made them, for us. And they would again. I don't remember what we did with those cookies, we couldn't bring ourselves to eat them.
There was another Christmas that I was so very sad and tried hard to pretend that I wasn't, but they knew and were so sweet to me.
And the Christmas we took Emma the Goat, yes - the real goat, to the church & she laid down in the aisle while everyone sang Silent Night by candle light. Then she didn't bother getting up when it was over and everyone had to walk around her.
My first Christmas, away at college -when I came home expecting to see the house all decorated and all the baking done & was horrified to that it was bare. When I expressed my supreme disappointment with my Mother, she shared with me for the first time ever, that she actually hated the Christmas Season. I said 'How could you?!' She said 'How could I not.' I think I grew up a little that day.
I remember so many Christmas Eves, as excited as the kids, laying awake, waiting for them to go down and see what Santa brought them. Some years I would have barely gotten to bed. They never knew it, but I would sneak out to the top of the steps to listen to what they were saying. The year that Jaime was four, we made her a huge dollhouse, bigger than she was & I couldn't wait to see her reaction. I didn't get Daniel's rocking horse - which was also huge & I had designed myself, quite finished, but he was too little to know or care. I left a note that said 'Have your Mother finish this. Love, Santa' Of course, neither of them could read so it could have said anything. I worked on her house almost all night & was so exhausted that I fell asleep & missed her discovery. I awoke to her shaking me with her excited little face two inches from mine - saying 'Mom! Mom! WAKE UP!! Santa left YOU a DONKEY!!!'
Ahhh yes, every Christmas is a story. I so wish I'd taken the time to keep a journal from the beginning. Might be a good thing to start now.