The room is dim—the only source of light is the late afternoon sun sneaking through the wavy glass windowpanes and dancing across the deep sills.
A huge tree stands against a plaster white wall. There is a tall wooden ladder, its legs splayed, perched next to the tree. The ceiling is high and the trim around the doors is painted Colonial blue.
I sit on the floor. The hardwood is chilly. Some of the planks are wide and others are narrow. They are all ridged with deep grooves and hundred-year old nicks. I trace my finger along an indentation and wipe the dust onto my stockings.
Tangled strings of Christmas lights are scattered about.
Boxes of red balls. Packs of tinsel. And pretty delicate white birds with tiny orange beaks and wire attached to their feet.
“Well put them on the tree,” my mother says. “It will look like an evergreen in the forest.”
There’s music, too.
From a record player.
Bing Crosby. The song catches and skips.
I’m dreaming of a White Christmas. White Christmas. Just like the ones I used to know.
When the album stops, my father attends to the hulking record player, readjusts the needle, and the music begins again.
There’s a lot of commotion. My mother. My brothers. The dogs. And me.
Happiness. Wrapping paper. Anticipation.
And the smell. The scent of pine and the aroma of baking cookies. I rub my tongue across my teeth searching for a remnant of the raw cookie dough my mother let me taste.
Our living room is a mess. But to me it is delightful as if we’re creating real-life-anything-is-possible magic.
I look up at the tree again and now it is covered in thousands of blue lights.
I squint. It’s beautiful.
That’s my snapshot.
Buried under years of holiday recollections, it’s my first Christmas memory.
I wonder what my kids will remember from their childhood Christmases. What will they hold dear? It’s impossible to predict upon what the mind will latch, what it will carry for a lifetime—the memories it will keep and the ones it will allow to vanish.
Will they remember the tree we had to stick on the patio after we had broken out in hives? Or our neighbor who dressed like Santa and visited Christmas Eve? Maybe it will be the giant dollhouse? Or the year of the Webkinz? Perhaps they will settle on a bad movie we watched one Christmas Day? Or maybe it will be the sweet taste of their grandmother’s freshly baked bread?
My wish is what they remember most includes the warmth of their family, a sense of security, and an element of mystery.
A time of miracles.
And may the love and light of the season fill their young hearts.
May the anticipation of possibility propel them through and inoculate them against the hardships of adulthood.
May they remember the deep confidence their mother had in them.
And please let them remember a world laced with a little magic.
That is my wish for you too.
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Norman Vincent Peale
What is your earliest Christmas memory?
My novel, What The Valley Knows, releases January 25, 2018. So while it won’t arrive in time for Christmas, it would make a nice Valentine’s Day gift. Preorder now, using the code PREORDER2017 to save an additional 10%. Click HERE to purchase and enter to win a $100 Barnes & Noble gift card or a Kindle Paperwhite.
“With strong prose and pacing, the pages turn quickly and easily . . . A taut, compelling family tale.” -Kirkus Reviews