At Christmas my nostalgia rises like the aroma of Slice-n-Bake snickerdoodles wafting through the kitchen. 'Cuz I'm kinda like Peg Bundy instead of Martha Stewart.
When my son comes home from college this month, I’ll pop a luscious Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie and Sister Schubert’s rolls in the oven to recreate the home-made aroma of Christmases Past, just like he remembers. Nothing less for MY son.
We’ll buy our live tree and decorate it together with the kids’ old handmade ornaments. And like always, I’ll reminisce about the magic that permeated our home when little hands wrote crayon letters to “Santa Cwaus at de Nawth Po.”
Dreaming of racetracks and toy kitchens with real sizzling sounds, my kids used to climb up on the mall Santa’s velvety lap. One year, as I watched them there within the finger-licking scent of Cinnabon, I realized MY dreams had all come true.
I stood in grateful silence. Amid the chaos of scrambling elves and flashing cameras, I breathed an epiphany that grabbed my soul with both hands. It opened my heart like a sacred book, etching within its pages close-up snapshots of Dimples and Bashful in a smocked dress. And the timid essence of a chubby little finger reaching for Santa’s beard.
The Jolly Guy gave them a treat as they slid from his lap. But I didn’t realize I would turn around and their hands would clutch car keys instead of candy canes.
It seems like yesterday that three freshly-bathed kids, waiting for Rudolph, snuggled up to Dad as he read The Night Before Christmas. My two girls with pink, chipped toenails peeking out from Barbie nightgowns. And my son in his Star Wars t-shirt leaning in close behind Dad’s ear. They hung on every word, and Dad paused at the end of each sentence so they could finish the rhyme.
I never imagined listening to Dad would be so hard for them when they became teenagers.
Christmas Day meant the patter of four little feet in footy pajamas tearing down the hall and a wide-eyed, squealing baby girl toddling after the fun. She was just happy to be puttering behind her brother and sister, learning by heart the meaning of Family and Forevers and Fa-la-la’s. I was too.
Toddlers in full-body fleece were long ago replaced by teenage girls in boxer shorts. But I often stroll through photo albums and love on my sleighfull of memories wrapped in Silent Nights and Little Tikes.
Leaping from fuzzy Polaroids, my snaggle-toothed Cindy Lou Whos bear hug me, and I forget the frustration of finding red icing smeared into the carpet and meltdowns in the toy department. And sometimes it was the kids who melted down.
Once while Christmas shopping, I almost had a mental collapse changing a diaper under the raised tailgate of my SUV. Unusually stressed, I fumbled with the sticky strips in drizzling rain while the other kids’ fists were flying in the backseat. I felt a familiar twinge of bat crazy twisting from my stomach when a misguided Happy Meal toy smacked me squarely on the forehead and a Goodnight Moon book whizzed past my ear.
Every inch of me wanted to scream, “I don’t deserve this!” but I tried to remember the awe of kneeling beside them after bedtime prayers and butterfly kisses. That sense of wonder always washed away the spilled sippy cups of exasperation and every bit of drippy ice cream on new shoes.
These days I am humbled when I steal into my teenagers’ rooms at night and kneel in the same holy spot I’ve knelt in for eighteen Christmases. The sense of Extraordinary cleanses away the leaking Gatorade bottles of frustration and every ounce of dripping sarcasm on the phone. It’s that magical moment of the day when I linger over their amazing, lumpy bodies under the covers. My misty eyes trickle praises to the Creator and I marvel, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”