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Column: At Christmas, memories are a gift unto themselves
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

The Christmas season is full of memories.

That time my siblings and I all got new bicycles and rode them down the street in our neighborhood on Christmas Day. The Christmas when we got a new minivan and I was in on the secret for my mom. One time when I was beginning to doubt Santa was real, he left sooty footprints on the carpet when putting his plate — now empty of cookies — by the sink.

There were also Christmas parties with my dad’s side of the family, always with a house full of people before my great-grandad passed. 

My grandparents on that side always had a tree full of ornaments with mesmerizing little moving parts. My grandmother loved Christmas — Santa, especially — and there was never any shortage of presents in shiny wrapping paper with bows for her grandchildren.

On the other side of the family, my grandparents would chop down some scraggly tree from their property and cover it in tinsel. My grandpa would always give us a huge chocolate bar and $100.

All those memories are sweet. My nana now carries on Grandpa’s tradition, though last year the $100 was deposited virtually by my mom since we couldn’t gather together in person. That was, of course, not the same, though still appreciated.

My parents now have many of the Christmas decorations from the other side of the family — Santas that dance to jazz and to country music and so many elves, though these stay in place unlike Jingles, the magical Elf on the Shelf at my house.

Christmas for me also brings the memories of children we’ve celebrated with while they lived in our foster home.

Our first littles were about 2 and 3 on their first and only Christmas with us. We got a house full of toys from Santa, including a Thomas the Train set that thrilled the oldest and scared his little sister as it made its way around the track.

The next year, a different pair of siblings got a bicycle and tricycle. We took them to the park around the corner and let them ride. I think the youngest spent more time running around laughing with her Minnie Mouse helmet on than she did riding her new tricycle. 

Another year later, a little baby and his toddler brother, who had matching green Christmas footie pajamas, got a plastic rocking horse they both loved — and had trouble sharing. 

That little baby had four teeth in his wide smile. The bottom two teeth are gone now and he’s got a face full of the cutest freckles. 

His older brother pressed all the buttons on that rocking horse, making it neigh and play music. Now, he’s old enough to tell Google which music he wants to hear. 

We’ve celebrated all but one Christmas together for the past five years, and this will be our second as the Casas family of four. 

We’re still a licensed foster home, but these days we’re providing respite care rather than full-time foster care. That means we sometimes take care of kids who live in another foster home so their foster parents can take a break for a weekend or a week.

Still, those memories of Christmases past leave me missing those who became part of our family, even if for just one holiday season.

I hope those first two, so much bigger now, know how loved they are by their family.

And for the next two, big brother is now a teen — I hope he’s still sweet and patient with his little sister like he was then. I hope she still finds joy and laughter all around her.

For the boys we now call our own, I hope we’re making a lifetime of memories they can look back on fondly when they’re older. 

Riding their new bicycle and tricycle at Wilshire Park. Dressing up in new firefighter and construction worker outfits and playing at my parents’ house. That time the little one got a fire truck he could ride on, and Santa left the box in the basement — whoops. Decorating cookies on Christmas Eve and the year we had Zoom Christmas with my family — or maybe we’ll forget that one. Their Elf on the Shelf bringing the whole family matching Christmas pajamas. The little one feeling so nervous at Breakfast with Santa that we had to try three times before he could tell Santa he wants a watch for Christmas. The oldest writing a letter to Santa because he couldn’t decide what he wants in time to tell him in person.

I hope Santa brings you and your loved ones what they want but most of all that he brings sweet moments you’ll remember for years to come — even when those memories are a little bittersweet as you miss those you shared them with.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.