Christmas happened largely in flashbacks this year.
I went back to where my parents live for Christmas, and spent a few days there. It’s one state over from me…a few hours drive. My parents still live in the same home where I grew up. I only usually make it back there about once a year, and that is usually over Christmas. My parents are doing this whole “trading spaces” home renovation thing…it’s really cool, and they’re totally proud of it, and all about showing their work off to me when I get there. And I suppose that the fact that they live in the same house and the same town that I grew up in would naturally lend itself to memories. This year, though, it was odd. Not odd in a bad way. Just odd. Because I kept flashing back to Christmases from long ago. I haven’t lived in that house in years, but I literally experienced memories so vividly over the weekend that it was amazing. They lasted only a few seconds each, but there were remarkable in their clarity, and left a nostalgia in the air that was so thick I had difficulty walking through it at times, although no one else even noticed it was present.
The memories came from all ages…some when I was very young, some when I was older.
I remember the excitement on Christmas Eve, the difficulty sleeping, listening for Santa to get there. We didn’t have a chimney, so I asked my parents on a few occasions just how exactly Santa made it into the place.
I remember waking up one Christmas morning to find a bite taken out of the cookie I had left for Santa, and half of his glass of milk drank. He had left me a Luke Skywalker action figure beside the plate. I remember that well. He was in his X-Wing fighter uniform.
I remember getting a race track one year. My dad had gotten a new stereo system that same year. I was very young that year, and my dad recorded the happenings of Christmas morning on a cassette tape without telling us. Then he played it back later, and I was so perplexed that my voice was coming from the radio.
“Oh my gosh, I got Optimus Prime!!!” (Yes, I was Transformers nut!)
“I’m walkin’ on air, baby!” (That one was from high school, when I got the most stylish shoes you could imagine)
I remember the back room to our house. It’s been a guest room, a den, and many other things in its various lives. But when the lights were all turned out and the Christmas lights in the window illuminated the room, it gave it such a warm glow. I used to love that room. It was frequently the “wrapping room.” I’ve wrapped many a gift in that room. My mom would help me wrap my dad’s, and he would help me wrap mom’s. That got tricky at times.
My parents used to hang a strobing Santa light in the window to the master bedroom. I used to just lay on their bed with the lights out and watch it strobe.
I could go on and on with memories that mean nothing to any of you reading this. And I understand that gifts and trees and cards aren’t what Christmas is all about. But the things that I walked away with this year are memories of an overwhelming sense of love and closeness in that home. That can never be taken away. I’m looking forward to (someday) starting my own Christmas traditions. Those wonderful memories will be the foundations for them.
Yes, I know, I said traditions. I suppose even I’m a sucker for tradition when it comes to Christmas.
Normally, my fond rememberings don’t really go back beyond high school. But for some reason, they went back much, much farther this past weekend. In retrospect, it leaves me pondering why the wonder has gone from Christmas, flown away with Santa’s sleigh as I’ve grown older. It leaves me striving to regain some sense of that magic. It leaves me curious as to why God permitted me the memories He did this weekend. Some of my family just aren’t going to be here much longer. Perhaps He wanted to give me those flashbacks as a gift, to support me as I move forward into the unknown.
Whatever the reason, they’re not just memories. They’re experiences that are invaluable. And I’m forever grateful to my family for providing me with them, and with the best home I could ever have dreamed of for my childhood. As I pursue wild dreams this year, I have the best background I could have hoped for. Not perfect. But the best.
Best wishes in your endeavors for the New Year!