I don’t know why, but as the years flow by I find that this time of year tends to leave me a little blue, this year more than usual. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because it’s the first Christmas in a long time that the kids won’t be here or maybe it’s the realization that a Norman Rockwell Christmas really doesn’t exist. Or perhaps it’s simply time changes things and the magic I once knew and loved when I was young, has long since faded with my childhood.
When I was young, Christmas was a sort of breathless, tummy hurts with the waiting, eyes wide event. There was a sense of wonder attached to the season that has disappeared. Sometimes I catch glimpses of it through the wonder in my grandchildren’s eyes, but it’s fleeting.
I loved Christmas when I was a child, not just for the presents. Oh they were great, but I also loved the warmth of the season. People treated you differently at Christmas. Kinder. Both Ron and I loved all the bright lights up and down the streets, and the carolers, the Christmas stories told in church though church, the great Christmas specials on TV along with the yearly unveiling of the coveted Christmas LPs dusted off and played on Dad’s console. I can still recall the excitement and fear as we made the yearly trip to visit Santa Claus so we could whisper in his ear what we really, REALLY wanted for Christmas. Santa was the man; he could make it happen as long as he didn’t discover that we weren’t quite as good as we should have been.
Dad always took us to “see the lights,” around the city, usually Christmas Eve, and then it was off to bed because Santa wouldn’t come if we were awake! Voices from the kitchen and the aroma of cooking turkey lulled us to sleep.
Christmas day, up early and a race down the stairs to the living room. And then that pause on the fifth step as we took in the sight. Ron and I would always turn and look at each other with eyes wide and mouths open wider. No words necessary, the amazement on our faces said it all. Toys, toys, toys! All perfectly assembled with big bows – nothing to unwrap, no fuss, no muss. It never failed to amaze us that Santa could some how, some way, get all those toys down the chimney and neatly arranged around the Christmas tree.
We never lingered long in contemplation, though. Usually, it was every man for himself as we raced the rest of the way down the stairs and into that magical toyland! Of course, it was important to pause long enough to check the cookie plate, along with the milk glass, just to be sure it was all real…and wouldn’t you know, Santa had taken the time to eat a few and drink some milk, too. We’d literally laugh out loud when we saw the cookies and milk.
Our stockings usually hung off the stair rails, and normally bulged with oranges, apples, and nuts with a few candy treats hidden in the toes. Before we could really dive into the toys, Mom and Dad would come yawning from their room and then sit and watch us. Sometimes my grandparents would rise early to watch, as well.
I’ll never forget the Christmas Dad bought an aluminum Christmas tree, all silvery and sparkly. It stood in a stand that twirled round and round and played Christmas tunes. Dad also bought a rotating fan-like light that had four colors on the wheel and it changed the tree from red, to blue to green, yellow and back to red as both tree and light spun slowly round and round. I could sit and watch that tree for hours. It was truly magical.
My brother Ron loved Christmas lights. Didn’t matter whether on the tree or hung outside. He loved the lights. He probably managed to find the wonder in those twinkling bulbs until the day he died. I know my Dad loved the lights almost as much. I envied that childlike joy they possessed, and still do.
I do love Christmas lights, though we rarely make the Christmas Eve trek anymore. Fewer and fewer homes have the displays now and somehow the winter wonderland driving parks just don’t hold the same appeal.
When I was young, I especially loved to watch the lights when there was falling snow. You know the type, those big, fat flakes that encase the land in a sort of awed silence. It felt like I’d been transported to another realm and the lights were leading me to a wondrous place. I still feel that when it happens.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love Christmas, but it really does tend to leave me a tad blue and more than a bit reflective the older I get. Being responsible for the magic had it’s own burdens, but that mantle has been passed on to my son and his wife. The true magic resides in my grandchildren’s eyes now.
With the passage of time comes change, some good, some bad. Nothing stays the same no matter how much we wish to freeze time. Loved ones leave us even as new loved ones arrive. Life is like that. This year it just feels truly different than all the others, and that is probably why I feel so melancholy.
I have discovered though, that memories are treasures that should be shared even while you’re busy creating new ones, especially Christmas memories …that elusive childhood magic lingers there, whether you are young or old, waiting for you to give it life. They are those Christmas lights in the snow, ready to lead you to your own to wondrous place.