Since I was a kid, I always loved Christmas. Of course there are religious reasons to observe and celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, but more tangible for me as a kid growing up were other things.
First, there were the big family gatherings. Those were usually on Christmas Eve. I remember we would go to the home of my father’s parents around lunch time, load up with food and gifts and then go to my mother’s parents’ home a few miles away for dinner and the same. I remember things that seem silly to some. I remember the year that my father’s parents gave me a radio. I remember the year my mother’s parents gave me a set of little toy cars. I remember my father’s parents having a little electronic bell that played Christmas songs. My grandmother found it to put up again this year. I also remember my great grandmother and how she, when I was a boy, trimmed her tree with simple things like paper and stringed popcorn. I also loved Peanuts and Charlie Brown and Snoopy at Christmas.
Most of all, I remember everyone being happy, jovial and full of life, including those who are now gone. Everyone got a gift. It might be cheap or small to some, but everyone, especially the children, was included. I remember my father’s father giving us bags of candy, fruit and nuts, a tradition he continued for us grandkids on into adulthood. That bag and the little electronic bell are seared into my memory forever. So is the stringed popcorn that donned the natural Christmas tree at my great grandmother’s.
For my mom and dad, I also remember the role of Santa, not only for me, but my little brother, who is 13 years my junior in age. My parents might have forgotten, but I have not, one particular Christmas when we lived at Fork Shoals. My dad had been laid off. I had my doubts about Santa. I was a rather intelligent boy. I specifically remember Santa leaving me a hunting knife, a BB gun, and a toy Pepsi truck that had its trailer filled with packs of BBs. That is heady stuff for a young boy. I am sure Santa left other things, but those stand out. That particular Christmas morning came upon the heels of us finding where a fire was as we came home that Christmas Eve from the family festivities. Again, that is heady stuff for a young boy.
My brother, who is now a deputy sheriff, might not appreciate this. I remember, as a young college student, standing guard at his bedroom door so that if he awoke, Santa would not be interrupted in his delivery. Now my little brother stands guard over all of us. But, he is always that little brother to stand watch over to me.
I am also proud of another man, another little brother if you will. I remember how Christmas Day was spent with our neighbors, and a man who grew up like a brother to me who is a half world away this holiday season in Kuwait. The families would gather, have a huge breakfast, and
that man, who is like a brother to me, and I would check out one another’s presents and play with things like the Atari game until exhaustion. And, yes, I still wonder how he managed to kick a 62 yard field goal to beat me in Atari 2600 football. It had to be a glitch in the programming.
There is also the young person I watched grow up all too fast, at least for me and her mother. One day she was all amazed at the lights at Riverbanks Zoo, the next it seemed she knew everything. But, I remember the tot on my shoulders. I helped Santa out with her as well. Now, I beam with pride over her college grades. And, she probably will not like it, but she will always be my little buddy, all excited about Christmas. No one else would make me search all over for the best Princess Carriage for Barbi. That young person and her mom gave me the greatest gift: the desire to be better.
God help me, I remember it all. Everything.
I was asked recently why I loved Christmas so much. Well, the above and more are why. Not only do we that profess the Christian faith celebrate the birth of our Savior, but memories are brought back. Things that really make us who we are deep down are remembered. Some might be even saddened by such memories of such things. But, I am not. I feel blessed. I lived those memories. They are mine. They are Christmas to me. And, they are the reason I find myself of good cheer and sport the colorful lights this time of year. They inspire me to make more memories.
Merry Christmas. Be of good cheer. Embrace the memories.