Thanksgiving ushers in the most wonderful time of the year: the season of stories. Everywhere we turn, we are surrounded by the music of language. Families sit around dinner tables and talk about relatives alive or long since passed. Traditions are handed down in kitchens dusted with sugar and flour. Children gather with beaming faces to listen to a man dressed in red speak about his reindeer and the mythical wonders of the North Pole. Churches, with pews bathed in the flickering light of candles, hush when The Gospel of Luke is read. Menorahs glow brighter each night in celebration of light triumphing over darkness. The world hums with the murmur of a thousand celebrations.
The holiday season, perhaps more than at any other time of the year, celebrates the stories that define us, the narratives we cherish, the words we hold most dear. We sing more songs. We share our memories. We revel in the magic of storytelling.
When I was a child, the Christmas season pulsed with the bustle of anticipation and the feverish energy of a little girl’s imagination.
For me, the joy of Christmas comes from one particularly special memory--it was the Christmas of 1980. That Christmas, when I crept downstairs and tore the paper off the boxes, I found things that I had ached to own. The world was abuzz with Star Wars. All of my friends had Star Wars figures, spaceships, t-shirts. And, there, in my hands, was the Millennium Falcon, one of the largest ships. Next, I found Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, C-3PO and R2D2, Obi-wan Kenobi--they were mine! I held the power of those films in my own small hands. I could create my own narratives, these figures the characters in my own vivid imaginings.
My Grandpa White made Christmas other-worldly. To me, part of the holiday was just listening to his "radio announcer" voice tell tales of Santa and the North Pole--his eyes twinkling. I never really "believed" in Santa Claus per se. I had a grate in my bedroom floor where I could peek down into the living room. I had seen my father in his briefs setting out presents once. Mostly, I humored Grandpa White because he seemed to believe in Santa and reindeer with such a childlike wonder you couldn't help but be swept up, too. Grandma and Grandpa White's house gonged with the chimes of dozens of clocks. Burl Ives, Andy Williams, Ed Ames, and all of the classic Christmas songs spun on their large record-player that was the size of a hope chest. The house smelled like ham, potatoes, apple pie. Grandma would fill up a huge crystal bowl with Hawaiian Punch and Sprite. We used ladles and fancy glass cups. We munched on peanuts, crackers and cheese. They would have their fireplace blazing. Much of the magic of my childhood Christmases comes from these memories.
These are some of my favorite holiday memories and stories.
What are yours?