The Christmas season is upon us again. The very thought of it strikes dread in the hearts of many, not only for the stress it can bring, but also because it can be a very emotionally charged holiday. I am one of those people who loves Christmas with all my heart. It has nothing to do with presents- Dan and I don’t even exchange gifts- it is the spirit of the holiday, the traditions, the joy. I come by this affinity naturally, as Heavy D made every holiday special…but she really shined at Christmas. I can’t imagine how she pulled it all off, but I will never forget waking up in the middle of the night (legal as long as I had her coffee pot going), calling out “Christmas gift!” (a family tradition from Mom’s side…the goal was to be the first to say it) and seeing the living room transformed by Christmas magic. How she did what she did on no money amazes me to this day, but she pulled it off so well that I believed in Santa Claus until way past when I should have. She thought of every detail, planning months in advance, hiding presents in her mahogany chest of drawers. She truly loved giving more than receiving, and the joy she shared for the holiday will never fade for me.
For Dan and me, our presents to each other lie in selecting our tree (with all of the appropriate Christmas Vacation movie references), the decorating of the tree and house, singing to the Christmas music we crank up while decorating (changing the lyrics horribly for fun), telling stories of our past Christmases, gathering with friends…everything about the season makes my heart smile (well, except for the crazy people who brawl to get the juicer on sale at Walmart…). Dan and I have both had some personally rough Christmases in the past…but we let them stay in the past, choosing to hold onto the many good memories, the happy traditions from our childhoods- and those that we have created in our twelve years together. We have no children, but we become children again with the infusion of the Christmas spirit…and we have a blast.
As I opened the large tub of ornaments to begin decorating the tree, I felt the memories overflow…each ornament telling a story, many with connections to my mother. This year’s tree will have some extra snowmen, in honor of Heavy D. I carefully unwrapped my favorites…some from my childhood, some from students over the years, some from special trips, some just because. Mom and I had a tradition of adding one new meaningful ornament a year, and I have kept up with that. Our tree tells a story, representing our passions, our loves, with some grateful nods to those we have loved and lost- both two- legged and four-legged. Seeing the newly decorated tree, taking in all of the ornaments, remembering their stories, never fails to make me smile…sometimes with a few tears mixed in.
I will keep the magic of Christmas in my heart for as long as I live. I’m grateful that both Dan and I have the same outlook where the holidays are concerned- life is to be celebrated. Don’t hold onto the heartache and pain of the past. Honor the lessons, honor the gifts, and move forward in joy. Sometimes it just takes a bit of Christmas magic…something that thankfully is in big supply around Chez Gainey.
Photographic evidence of my early Christmas Spirit training: