Those simpler times are blanketed in layers of happy memories.
As life comes at us these days at 90 miles a minute, those long-ago Christmases are more cherished than ever.
I thank my parents for wrapping Christmas up for me in such a wonderful way that I can look back over time and remember those special moments.
The gifts I got under the tree are not what I remember. Rather, it is the times as a family that we sat in the living room and hung our stockings and read the story of the birth of Christ together. Or how delighted my dad was to bring home a box of fresh tangerines and oranges and a bag of candy canes for us.
I remember my mother working away in the kitchen and the warmth and smells that emerged as she cooked.
Our little town of Canton was a part of those times and the memories they left to enjoy leafing through in my mind like a stack of old Christmas cards are special ones.
Picking out a Christmas tree and marveling it was the most beautiful ever as we strung colored lights and threw little strands of icicles all over it.
Driving to Canton to see the bright red and green lights strung gaily across Main Street.
Going downtown shopping for dusting powder and handkerchiefs for my grandmother at Kessler’s or the drugstore. Sneaking down into the toyland to look around for dolls.
Standing in front of the windows at Jones Mercantile and marveling at the Santa and his elves.
Visiting the live nativity scene and attending the candlelight service at church, where it seemed everyone in town was in attendance.
Greeting neighbors bringing by plates of divinity and fruitcake slices. Listening to WCHK on Christmas morning as all my friends called in to tell what Santa brought them.
Running to get the mail every day and hunting for Christmas cards from relatives far away.
In those days we didn’t have the abundance of financial wealth that people have today, but that was the way everyone was, and in many ways that was a blessing.
Because what we did have seemed all the more special.
These days, it is a little harder to find the spirit of Christmas.
Over the years I have experienced great joy at the holidays, such as the year my son was born and we brought him home on Christmas Eve to rejoicing from all family members over the first grandchild.
But I have also had sad times, like so many people have in their lives during the holidays, including the death of my mother on Christmas day 11 years ago.
As I write this, it is her birthday and I still miss her so much each year at this time. But I also thank her in my heart for the gifts of Christmas she left me, the ornaments we chose together the first year I had my own Christmas tree, the books she bought me each year for the holiday, and most of all her love of her family.
She believed in making traditions for us, of bonding us together by turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.
She was a no-nonsense person most of the year, while my dad was always a softie. I couldn’t get much by my mother, but I could get away with just about anything with my father.
But at Christmas I know my mother worked hard to make our time as a family special.
That is perhaps why her death still is hard to reconcile, especially at Christmas. I know, though, that she would not want me to sit around with what she called a long face; in fact she is probably incredulous that I do.
This year I lost one of my best friends to cancer, and as Christmas approaches it is hard to imagine celebrating this holiday without her. We had been best friends my entire life and her passing left a hole that will never be filled. But it will always be cherished.
Christmas is a time to remember. It is a time to reflect and to appreciate each facet of the season. The music, the lights, the family time, dear friends, the promise of salvation that is at its heart.
The Bible says “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
Christmas shines the light of love on our world, it brings us out of the darkness and into the light.
As I shake the snow globe of my memories, I watch the scene as it swirls and glimmers, revealing a lifetime of cherished holiday times and thoughts of people past, present and even future.
I hope the joy and peace of the season is with each of you this holiday.