Christmas is familiar. The baby crying in the stable cold, angels heralding, twinkle lights, snow and laughter and cookies baking, tiny velvet dresses and boxes shaken with glee, glittery oats flung on the lawn and stockings and carols. There’s a joy and comfort in doing the same things in the same way every year.
And Christmas is mysterious. Love come to earth for us. Bells jingling on the roof. Watchful eyes turned sleepy, then waking to the wished-for gift.
Christmas is also fleeting. There will never be another Christmas exactly like this one. The tiny velvet dress will be a little bigger next year. Some children will wake next Christmas to a morning that doesn’t feel quite as astonishing. Part of us may be wistful for the way Christmas was and the people we had.
For this month’s story prompt, I asked Pfister guests to share a holiday memory they cherish from their childhoods. I got a box full of the kind of answers that give you a nostalgic lump in your throat.
Someone wrote about decorating the perfect sugar cookie she’s never been able to replicate with a grandmother she misses dearly. I received notes about waiting fervently at the windowsill for those spiraling snowflakes that all children know open the world to sledding, angels, snowmen and hot cocoa with five carefully counted marshmallows afterward.
Cathy told of her father waking her and her two sisters every Christmas morning dressed as Santa. She wrote, “He loved Christmas and loved his three girls, wanting us to love it too. It worked! We all see the special wonder in the season, and continue it with our families.”
Whitney told the story of the “underwear tree”: “Unfortunately, every year my grandpa would wake up early in the morning and litter the tree with a small basket full of his 1980’s style briefs. I remember the red ones for one odd reason or another. Maybe they were holy (holey?) Back then, I used to try to stay up all night to catch him before he could get to it but I never could. Darn my tiny child hood attention span. Right before we opened the presents, my grandmother would get a camera and we would all have a good laugh in the living room. It’s as if the joke never got old. Even though my grandparents are long gone, the tree with the elderly underwear will always be in my heart.”
One of the dearest moments from my own Christmas preparations this year happened just a few days ago. My eighteen month old twins were playing with their children’s Nativity set, somewhat brutally banging the sheep and angel together. My daughter stormed up to me as she does when she has particularly important places to be: head tucked down, the better to keep an eye on her feet sliding in their pink socks, steps as determined as she can make them since learning to walk a whole six weeks ago. She flung the plastic Jesus at me and proudly declared, “Sheeshush!” Her brother toddled over, took the Fisher Price Jesus and, I kid you not, kissed him.
This is the only Christmas that will be just this way.
So each year we drink in the jubilation, the merriment and magic.
These sweet and hilarious letters from some of this season’s youngest Pfister guests are my gift to you.