Here's what I remember about the Christmases of my childhood...
Baking cookies with my mom using generous, heaping doses of decorator sugars, sprinkles and cinnamon red-hot candies.
Begging my dad to call Santa on our antique phone to relay our wish list messages.
Visiting the big department stores in downtown Cincinnati to see their elaborate holiday window displays.
The gravely voice of my grandmother singing Christmas carols at church
on Christmas eve, the one time each year she would sing along at church,
forgetting any insecurities about her less-than-perfect singing voice.
Driving around town after dark to admire the holiday lights.
Eating cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning.
Reading The Sweet Smell of Christmas. Over and over and over. Every. Year.
Going to bed on Christmas eve, nearly bursting with excitement and convinced I would NEVER fall asleep.
Here's what I don't remember about the Christmases of my childhood...
What gifts I got.
As I scroll back through the memories of Christmases past, I have a hard time identifying any gift that I received. My brother and I were the only two grandchildren on both sides of our family, so I'm certain there was some excessive spoiling going on around Christmas time. But I recall almost none of it. I remember mounds of presents under the tree. I remember none of the specifics of what was actually in those boxes.
This is what keeps me sane this holiday season. As I ponder and begin to stress about the prefect gifts for each of our children, my own foggy memory is a poignant reminder. It's not what is in those packages that our kids will remember years from now. They will remember the mood of the season. They will recall the abundance. The baking. The wrapping. The giving. The singing. The anticipation. The magic.
My gift to my children this year is to enjoy the season. Don't fret...we will still have actual gifts on Christmas morning. But I've learned that is not the important part. Shopping, counting gifts and trolling mail-order catalogs doesn't need to be my only focus between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm making a conscious effort to focus my heart and my time on the spirit, not the spending, of the season. Memories are made of time and traditions, not the latest, greatest toy under the tree.