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Christmas memories always survive the letdown

POSTED: December 25, 2011 12:30 a.m.

There is something both sad and wonderful about Christmas Day. If you were expecting wonderful and magical things to happen on this day, it either did or it didn't.

I'm in the in-between stage of Christmas right now. Our children are all grown and Christmas presents are most often what they asked for and there is little surprise.

I hope one day to have grandchildren and have an opportunity to enjoy that magic Christmas experience again.

One year, Santa came down the chimney and stepped right in the fireplace ashes. He left a few ash-covered boot prints in front of the hearth. I remember a little girl's eyes were as big as saucers when she saw that Santa had been there. I treasure that moment.

I love the anticipation of Christmas. I love when Christmas music comes on the radio, because radio stations once again play great artists like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Nobody sings songs like those guys.

There are parts of Christmas that bring back memories. I think of my Mama, who loved Christmas. I think part of it was her hardscrabble upbringing where Christmas never meant big presents. Mama loved making it fun and it was. In her later years, she would forget some gifts she had purchased earlier in the year and would send us on scavenger hunts in the hall closet.

She died in 1996, just three weeks before Christmas. That year stands out as the worst Christmas ever. I hope it never happens that way again.

But when all of the celebrating is over, there is a pall that comes over Christmas.

Peggy Lee recorded a song called, "Is that all there is?" It is part song and part monologue.

She recounts the stories of a tragic fire, going to the circus and falling in and out of love. When all three events are over, she asks prophetically, "Is that all there is?"

Sometimes I feel that way at the end of Christmas Day. All the work and all the energy that has gone into Christmas are gone.

I went to New York one year on Christmas Day and found that the city that never sleeps didn't sleep on Christmas. Restaurants and stores were open as if there was no holiday at all.

Collectively, my Christmas memories are great treasures and I store them away in a portion of my mind where they can be recalled with joy and fondness. I remember those times when Santa brought me the racetrack, bicycle or TV that I just had to have.

I even have good memories of the Christmas that Santa brought a sled and it didn't snow that winter or the next.

Christmas is really about giving, not getting. It is about the closeness of family and expressing love for one another.

Some people think that if they don't have a Christmas tree that is surrounded by boxes upon boxes of gifts, Christmas is a failure.

When I reach those moments of the Christmas wind down, I think back on those good times, some of them now 40-plus years ago and sometimes I smile and sometimes I dab a tear or two.

Depending on when you read this, I hope it will be or has been a wonderful day for you.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.



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