I watched a young boy, the other day, his little face all lit up as he saw the massive collection of nativities in our front window. The pure enormity of scale, of differences, of colors, of reverence - his naive youth. His mother held him, his stocking hat cocked to the side. He was three or four, maybe. I hope this moment will be saved in his young brain and remembered as a special holiday memory.
I watched them through the door, not wanting to change the experience. She spoke to him quietly, perhaps explaining what he was seeing and they pointed and smiled and there was tenderness. She was wanting to share everything and relate the magic that is this time of year.
When my son was younger we had an unusual Christmas bear figure that was about 5 inches tall and had a hinged midsection. Inside was an empty space. I don't know where the bear came from. As we anticipated the holiday I put the bear on the kitchen counter and filled his hollow tummy with a single chocolate kiss. Imagine when the bear's belly was checked and a Christmas surprise was found. He couldn't get enough. There were hours of leaving the room, then checking and finding yet another treat. He called it magic.
As I was unpacking the Christmas box this year, I pulled the bear out as my son watched from a distance. I smiled and handed it to him. He's now 18 and he immediately checked inside.
When I was a child we always had a real tree. The smell of evergreen took over a room and the house. Large boxes would arrive from grandparents and distant aunts and uncles, early. Those gifts went under the tree and sat there for investigation when my mom wasn't looking. My grandmother was of a gift wrapping "school" that, if you knew how to wrap properly, you didn't need tape. Perfection. Only a ribbon held exacting folded corners in place. My other grandmother sent Florida oranges and we ate them the entirety of December. Crisp, sweet, exacting traditions.
If I close my eyes I know the smells, the sounds, the pitter pat in my chest of anticipation. Lights danced in our normal living room all of a sudden, we hummed to albums with Johnny Mathis singing, and there were ribbon candies in a bowl. Our 3 channels of TV viewing offered specials and variety shows that brought holiday excitement to a Friday night.
My mom wasn't a talented cook, but she did love a holiday. She would talk up a roast or ham and we would eat with the good plates and milk in wine glasses and it was special and a big deal. Her good intention is what I remember. We were together and laughed and gorged on those less-than-perfect meals. I smile to look back. My holidays were magic.
I don't remember the gifts I received. I do remember the taste of those oranges. I remember the sound of Johnny Mathis's voice, the smell of pine. I remember wiping sleep from my eyes and the crispness of the morning air. I remember being together, and those dancing lights. I remember glee and excitement, food, and candy, and extra.
My son remembers that quirky Christmas bear and his bounty of chocolate kisses. I'm sure we all have memories of the magic. My hopes this year are to slow down, spend the time, make the meal, buy the gifts, but to enjoy it all. It is the good stuff. Pay attention to the magic.