A few weeks ago, I was excited about the upcoming holiday season. With a new job in a company that is heavily focused on the holidays, I thought this year would be different. The last few years, I have preferred for December to just skip by and leave me be. Due to family issues, Christmas wasn’t joyous or even fun; it was simply uncomfortable. This year, though, I decried my negativity of Christmas pasts and decided to jump in feet first. I remembered the magic of the holiday season and I wanted it back. I burned a CD of Bing Crosby Christmas music (because hello? He OWNS Christmas) and happily tossed it into the player of my car. I was greatly looking forward to the grand displays of lights that I would easily see since I drive home from work in the dark now.
About five days after my exuberant start to the Christmas season, it started to wane. I realized that my heart wasn’t in it like I thought it would be. I wasn’t listening to the Christmas music and paying attention to anything on my drive home besides watching out for drunk drivers. Tonight, we watched A Christmas Story (favorite holiday movie ever) and took Roxie for a walk at 2am and I noticed that there weren’t any Christmas lights twinkling in windows or lit trees glowing against the backdrop of gossamer curtains. And then it made me wonder – where is Christmas this year?
I remember Christmases as a child. From the time I was 8 until age 13, the majority of my holiday seasons were spent inside my parents’ jewelry store. I remember the Santa’s village that my dad built out of wood and decorated to put in the window. I remember Mom playing Bing Crosby on the stereo and going to stand out in the street so that I could hear “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” blaring through the outside speakers as I watched the residents of the town bustle by on the sidewalk. Mom’s big, gorgeous Christmas tree that stood in one corner of the store, beautifully decorated. The scent of cinnamon candles. The sound of the polisher as Dad finished sizing a ring that would end up on some lucky woman’s finger on Christmas morning. The sound of crisp wrapping paper being torn from the roll. My brother and I watching the little mouse that peeked out of the pockets of the advent calendar that hung in our mom’s office, our eyes heavily focused on the number “24” because we knew that was when the magic really happened.
During that same time, we lived in the country outside a tiny town with nothing but a Revco and a grocery store for shopping. Anytime we needed anything, we had to head to New Albany or Jeffersonville or even Louisville. I distinctly remember bundling up in my winter coat and climbing into the backseat our Chevy Celebrity for a trip to Service Merchandise or Target or, if we were really lucky, a trip to the mall to go Christmas shopping. Afterwards, we would wind our way up Floyds Knobs to look at all the Christmas lights and stare out over the twinkling lights of the Louisville metro area. My teeth would chatter with excitement.
And then, Christmas Eve would come and the jewelry store would close in time for us to pile into the car and head to Corydon, where we would gather with my Dad’s family. “Santa” would always visit, wearing the same threadbare suit my father had originally purchased in the 1960s. Every year, it was toted out by an uncle or a cousin and we all got a present from his bag. Every year, the suit looked a little worse. The material was starting to unravel, the beard nothing but a few spindly threads of white fuzz. Then, once we’d had our fill of holiday cheer in the form of my dad’s odd family, we’d climb back into the car and make the hour drive home. By then, it was late. My brother and I usually slept on the way and went to bed as soon as we got home, but we rarely slept on Christmas Eve. We always camped out in my bedroom and would force ourselves to get two or three hours of sleep at most, then wake up at 5am and stare at the clock until 6, which was the designated time that we were allowed to wake up Mom and Dad and then dive into the living room to see what Santa brought us. There was always evidence of Santa, too. Half-eaten cookies. A sooty boot print left in front of the fireplace.
So many memories. So much magic.
I started this post wanting to know what happened to all that magic but I think, over the course of writing this, that I found it. It’s not gone. I haven’t lost it at all. It’s simply not the same as it used to be, but it’s there. And in my memories, I find that the magic is still as strong as ever.