What is it about the holiday season that puts our brains in recall mode? How many times as an adult have you fondly recalled a certain Christmas from your childhood? As the parent of grown children, how often do you remember those Christmas Eves of yesteryear when you played Santa Claus? The older we get, the more memories we have to cherish. It’s one of the nice things about growing older.
My earliest Christmas memory originated about 52 years ago. That Christmas my grandmother gave me and my two sisters “walking dolls.” Donned in red velvet dresses and shiny, patent leather shoes, the dolls were as tall as we were. The platinum-haired beauties were like stair steps, the shortest going to my year-younger sister. Back in the Pre-Robotic Age when non-electronic things roamed the earth, you made a doll walk by lifting her arms up to her waist and pulling her toward you. Like magic, she would take a stiff step or two in your direction – no batteries required.
The Christmas of the Walking Dolls occurred when I was about three-years-old because by the time I was five, there wasn’t a doll to be found in Georgia that was as tall as me. My Amazonian proportions were already blossoming. Not to worry. It all worked out for the best as every little girl in 1965 knew that Barbie was the coolest doll around. My first one was a brunette who would receive a Twiggy haircut and be displaced by Malibu Barbie of the golden tan and peroxide-blonde locks.
My all-time favorite childhood Christmas involved bicycles and dinosaurs. The Barrett girls had a habit of waking up in the middle of the night and sneaking downstairs to see if Santa had paid a visit. On this particular Christmas, Santa left three, shiny new bicycles – two, big blue ones for me and my older sister and a small, bronze-colored one equipped with training wheels for my younger sister. We maneuvered them outside and rode them in circles around our carport until we remembered the loot still under the tree.
We dashed back inside and lo and behold, Santa had graced me with a much-sought-after time machine! I plopped a little green block inside the time machine and closed the clear, plastic door. As it heated up, a T-rex slowly emerged. Another block produced a brontosaurus and from yet another, sprang a stegosaurus. The fun lasted for about 15 minutes because crushing the dinosaurs back into little blocks to be reheated just didn’t work as well as advertised.
I prefer to believe it’s a testament to American consumerism, rather than my own greed, that so many of my childhood Christmas memories revolve around gifts I received. Other than my eighth Christmas when I tromped through the woods with my grandfather to chop down our tree, I was much older before I can recall a less materialistic Christmas memory. It involves Christmas caroling through the neighborhood with my 13-year-old friends. We seldom managed to get past the first or second lines of any carol. Hey, do you know all the words to “O Holy Night?”
That’s the year I learned that Christmas brings out the nice in people. Our next door neighbor, Mr. Hasty (aka Mr. Nasty), and his wife listened attentively to our incomplete carols and then kindly offered us hot chocolate. Was this the same grumpy, old cuss who had always yelled at me for taking a shortcut through his manicured backyard when I was walking home from grammar school? Was Mr. Nasty like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes when he discovered the true meaning of Christmas?
How exquisite are those moments when we realize that good resides in a heart where we least expected to find it! Surely those are among the Christmas memories we hold most dear. Just as surely, the true meaning of Christmas still shines as brightly as that star shone over Bethlehem. May you find it where you least expect it– creating many wonderful memories in the process – during this holiday season.