This time of year most of us get a little reflective and sentimental: ’tis the season, right?
For someone (me) who is reflective and sentimental no matter the time of year, Christmas is a time to overtly indulge those sensibilities.
I know, I know, the Falcons and Saints play meaningful football this weekend, Lanierland starts Thursday and Georgia is in the college football playoff, but let’s put all that on the back burner momentarily, i.e., just humor me.
Memories of every Christmas don’t exist for me, however, seared into my memory are moments that have come to define what Christmas is to me and what if feels like for me.
These moments, when tapped into, flash in reel-to-reel fashion.
I might have been eight when my sister Bonnie woke me well before dawn on Christmas morning so we could go downstairs and see if Santa had come.
Something to note before I continue, my two sisters are a good bit older than I am. By the time I came along, they were well versed in the wonderment created by my parents at Christmastime, and reveled in watching me come into my own recognition of such.
Bonnie and I quietly - so we thought at the time I’m sure - made our way downstairs and into the living room, turned on the lights on the tree and gazed at all the beautifully-wrapped packages underneath it. You see, my parents didn’t have a lot of expendable income, they saved for Christmas and spoiled us in Santa’s name.
After a few awestruck moments, Bonnie and I turned our attention to the next task at hand, waking up Kristi, our middle sister. Much like it was always I (the youngest sister) who was told to wake up my parents at an ungodly hour on Christmas morning, Bonnie made me rouse Kristi. The thought in both cases, I’m guessing, was that it was harder to get angry at the excitement of a child at 5 a.m. then humans in their teens and twenties.
However, Kristi did not like being woken up, no matter the age of the person doing the waking. It was hard work to get that girl out of bed, but persist I did and finally - albeit begrudgingly - she joined us for a walk downstairs to the tree and the gifts. Just as Bonnie had watched me touch every gift in excited anticipation, and I her, we stood right with Kristi looking on as she assessed her pile of packages.
It was still too early to wake my parents - we weren’t callous in our excitement - so the three of us sat side-by-side, me in the middle, in front of our family television and popped in a movie daddy rented the night before at Turtles: “The Toy.” We each had a glass-bottled Coke and watched the movie until Kristi actually woke up, then it was time to wake our parents
They sleepily meandered downstairs, my bare-footed daddy in his khakis and T-shirt, mama in her red housecoat, and we commenced opening gifts, post-coffee making of course. Mama and daddy sat side-by-side on the couch in the living room, the sounds of Elvis and Bing Crosby, Gene Autry and Judy Garland filled the house as we laughed and unwrapped, my parents acting surprised with every package I opened that Santa thought I had been that good.
I have no idea what I got that year; can’t remember one gift. What’s seared in my memory are the moments: being woken up, my first glimpse at the gifts lit by the soft white light of the tree’s strung lights, sitting between my sisters watching a movie trying not to talk too much or laugh too loudly, watching my parents come down the stairs. What’s seared in my memory are how those moments, and thus Christmas, felt: exciting, joyous, anticipatory, warm, loving.
We’re all grown now and live in separate places, no longer does Bonnie come wake me up, but she has been known to call and wake me up. Nobody, on the other hand, calls Kristi until it’s known she’s been awake for a while. There is no longer a Christmas morning, instead a Christmas night, but my sisters and I still sit side-by-side, me in the middle, and marvel at the sight of each other’s gifts while relishing in the excitement one another feels. My mother’s housecoat is long gone and daddy now only wears khakis to church, but they still sit side-by-side on a couch in the living room.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We’ve added to our family, it’s no longer just the five of us, but with each person who’s come in has come the added blessing of watching them recognize the wonderment created by my parents at Christmastime.
My Christmas hope for all of you is that not a gift is remembered, but seared into your memory instead are the moments that define what this season is to you, what it means to you, and that you think enough of those moments and feelings to pass them on.
Merry Christmas everyone; I hope Santa thinks you’ve all been that good this year.