Memories are what we carry with us always. Time marches on and life brings many changes. We grow up. We leave home. We forge a new life. We have careers. We make new friendships and connections. We face challenges and losses. We have victories and gifts along the way. Our memories record it all. Well, at least some of it sticks with us.
It’s kind of crazy what imprints in our memories. Some times one wonders why some things are so vivid and others have faded away. Other memories you know why they have stayed because they so profoundly impacted you or the moment was memorable and special.
My earliest memories are of the second place my parents lived in with me. I was about three years old at the time and had a one year old brother. I have some strong memories of our next door neighbors. They were a very sweet couple. I loved going over to their house to play. The man worked with my dad. His name was Grady, but I called him, “Gravy.” Everyday, I would stand on this little cement platform near the fence that bordered our two properties and wait for him. Everyday, I’d give him some sugar (a kiss) when he arrived.
Each year, my dad’s company would have this wonderful Christmas party. They pulled out all the stops. Great food, games, activities and even Santa made an appearance. I loved these parties. The people my dad worked with were fun and nice. We always had such a good time. The highlight, for me, was getting to sit on Santa’s lap and get s gift. One year my present was this florist shop in a box. It had flowers and little vases. It had a cash register and money. Everything you needed to have an imaginary florist shop. I never named my pretend shop, but if I did, now I think I would have named it, “Petals” ….lol.
One year, I anxiously waited for my turn to visit Santa. As I reached him, I realized it was my Gravy! I kept saying his name over and over. He had a twinkle in his eye that I will never forget as he gave me a big hug. My parents rushed up to take me before Santa’s identity was revealed to the rest of the kids. I don’t remember what I got that year from Santa. I do remember that I wasn’t surprised that my Gravy was Santa! Of course, he was. He was kind, caring, loved me and always made time with him magical.
We moved from that home and our dear neighbors, Grady and Robena (his wife,) when I was five. I was so sad to leave them. We stayed in contact with them. Every Halloween, my dad would drive us to their house to trick or treat. They were wonderful people who are a huge part of my earliest memories. They aren’t with us anymore, but they live on vividly in my heart and memories.
The holidays can be a bittersweet time for many. We nostalgically reminisce about our past ones…the traditions, the events, the food, the people. Even if our Christmases are like a Hallmark movie, we can still feel a sadness if we’ve lost someone that made those times special. It’s a tricky thing to navigate in one’s heart. Sometimes present day events, a job loss, a relationship that is broken, or another life challenge casts a shadow over this time that is suppose to be happy.
I think it’s so important to be true to yourself when you celebrate Christmas. If you’re not up for a big fancy one this year (or ever for that matter) don’t have one. It’s wonderful to have traditions you carry on from family or your youth, but if they bring too much sadness, give yourself permission to do what you need to. Memories are beautiful things. They are what last and what we can hold on to always, yet even the best ones can be painful when there has been a fresh loss. Be gentle with yourself.
I had an aunt who adored all holidays especially Christmas. I loved how she loved them. It brought her so much joy. She taught me so much about living life well. Celebrating holidays and the every day. Loving people all out. One of the lessons she taught me, was how she spent her last ten Christmases after my uncle passed away. I truly didn’t know how she would live after he left us.. She married him when she was quite young and they had almost 60 married years together. I watched as she grieved him yet continued to live. She focused on those that were here. She continued to celebrate Christmas. She baked cookies, she got gifts, she decked her home out. I have beautiful memories of all my Christmas times with her, but those last ones modeled something to me. As she got older and couldn’t do as much, she did do less, but her spirit was still a twinkle over Christmas. Her face would light up at it’s mention. I watched her give gifts to her doctors and nurses. She baked cookies even her last Christmas. Most of all she had the Christmas spirit. It was beautiful and it was inspiring. I saw in her that Christmas was something to rejoice in. Something one could count on. For those of us who believe that Christmas brought the hope of a Savior, it also reminds us what is ahead. The losses here are not forever. One day we will all be together rejoicing with the King of Christmas Himself. Til that time, while we are physically apart from some who have passed away, we can feel the communion of spirit as “heaven and nature sings.”
My Aunt Donna passed away two years ago. I miss her everyday. I do cry sometimes when I do the things of Christmas because she was such a big part of our celebrating. I also smile and laugh. I celebrate big. Decorate the house and bake the cookies. I carry on the traditions. What she lived was such a great gift to me. One that keeps giving and giving. Taking all the memories of her, “Gravy”and Christmas pasts, I hold them close to my heart and they bring me such joy. I hope those reading my little blog can feel your own joy at the merry memories you hold.
May your memories bring you joy this Christmas. May they remind you of what matters and what doesn’t. May they fill your holiday with magic and sparkle. I hope this is a memorable one for you and yours. If you are missing someone dear this year, I hope your memories bring comfort and a smile. Merry Christmas to you all!