Memories are amazing things, aren’t they? Some are so profound, that if you close your eyes you can be transported back in time and almost feel the air, smell the odors, and recapture all the feelings… It’s so peculiar how only certain things, usually brief passing moments, stay put in our memories while chunks of time from childhood are remembered with only a vague recollection, at best.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. The decorations, gift giving, music and gatherings are magical to me, although I must admit, absolutely nothing compared to the wonderment of yesteryear. Those memories of Christmas when I believed wholeheartedly in the indisputable magic. Reminiscing about that time reminds me of how special and momentary childhood is; how quick we are to wish it away, only to pray for it back in what seems like moments later…
Being from an Italian family, I’ve loved and cherished the joy of our 7 (or more) fishes Christmas Eve dinner tradition from as early as I can remember. I also looked forward to our annual Christmas Day loop visiting all of my Grandparents, Great Grandparents and extended family who waited patiently for our arrival. A time when it was commonplace for family to stay close in proximity, sharing neighborhoods and even homes together. I can still picture each of their homes, adorned with decorations and overflowing with special homemade Christmas treats. To this day, I still associate those treats with those beloved members who are sadly long gone… Great Grandpop and Great Aunt Nancy’s Christmas ribbon candy and especially her homemade Struffoli. The treats always waiting in their respective bowls on the table, just feet away from the little tinsel decorated tree at the bottom of the stairs in their adorable South Philly row home.
Two specific memories I hold particularly dear and each year they play in my mind as the season nears… The first was the Christmas after my Mother passed, before I was blessed enough for my Father to remarry and provide me with another Mother. One whom I’m sure was handpicked by my Mom and sent directly from heaven to make our family whole again… My Father had his hands full with three very young children and his work as a Police Officer, so my grandparents often had us with them to help him during that difficult time.
How I adored my Father! He was the center of my universe, and my hero, which he still very much is today. When I looked at him, I saw strength and love and felt safe at a time that was very confusing for a little girl. I vividly remember that year on Christmas Eve, sharing a bed with my two older brothers as we listened to the shuffling coming from downstairs. We were convinced that Santa was there! The accompanying sounds on the rooftop were proof. I can only imagine, as luck would have it that magical night, that those sounds were from the wind, but to us they were sure to be Santa’s reindeer! Thinking of that night I can still feel the excitement build in my stomach… that feeling of magic and the innocence in knowing that Santa had arrived! It was amazing for sure, but I truly think that knowing my Dad was home and would be there in the morning with us, as I snuggled with my brothers, was what made that night my most memorable and favorite Christmas. Christmas has a way of healing the heart, whether you escape in the glory yourself, or you watch the wide-eyed joy of others.
Years later, perhaps when I was around 12 or so, my next favorite Christmas occurred. To relay it may not even seem like a big deal to anyone else, but to me it was every Christmas card captured in real life. Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at my Grandparents house, with Aunts and Uncles and Cousins all squeezed into their little decorated home for the festivities. A tradition that we keep alive to this day, and for that I am grateful.
My grandparents’ house was just a few short blocks from our home so we would simply walk there… That Christmas Eve, when we left to head back home, it was snowing, and it was absolutely breathtaking. I can still feel the snow on my face and hear my feet shuffling the dusting as it lay on the pavement. We were bundled in hats and gloves for what was the first real Christmas snow that I can remember. It was freezing out, but the flurries under the glow of the street lights, with the smells of the Holiday wafting through the city streets, was perfection. Carrying packages and walking arm in arm with my parents and brothers, so we wouldn’t slip and fall, as we laughed and completely soaked up the joy of the moment. We didn’t believe anymore in Santa, but that didn’t stop that night from being magical. It was a scene from a Hallmark movie. A simple moment, that meant everything. I don’t even know if my family would recall that particular Christmas Eve, but to me it was all the feelings that God intended for us to feel at this special time of year.
It’s no wonder that my greatest memories of the season have nothing to do with a present, but instead, with time spent with Family – truly the greatest gift of all. I am so incredibly blessed to have mine, both immediate and extended, living and passed. What I wouldn’t do to go back in time, even if just to observe…. To look upon faces I miss dearly, and to feel the warmth of the Season again as only a child can…
Hold on to your memories, but more importantly hold on to each other in the here and now. Time is fleeting, soak the moments in, be present and be grateful. What better way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, than by honoring everything the Nativity teaches us… the value of life, the importance of family, and the significance of helping those in need.
Wishing all a Merry Christmas full of joyful moments with loved ones.
Peace Always 🙂