Without a doubt, my most favorite Christmas of all time was the one in 1995. Our daughter was not quite three and she was the prettiest little thing in her Victorian style winter coat, complete with bonnet and muffler, as we headed out on the eve of the big day to deliver gifts to friends.
She looked like a picture postcard standing in front of our newly restored turn-of-the-century farm house in the tiny north central Mississippi hamlet of Carrollton. Feliz Navidad blared from the stereo speakers hidden on the front porch, and our big ole fluffy sheepdog, Butterbean, frolicked around us in the front yard.
Everything was perfect it seemed and then, although I would have sworn it not possible, Rachel-Johanna’s little eyes grew even brighter with excitement when my mom and dad, Nanny and Paw to her, showed up later that day, and again when Santa dropped by, not once, not twice, but three times before bedtime. I believe — no, I know — that the inner child came out in all of us that evening. Christmas morning was wild and crazy and the fourth Santa, the one that came in the dark of the night, most certainly did not disappoint.
We moved to the city before another Christmas would dawn in that beautiful old house, and though the excitement was still there year after year it just was never quite as thrilling as it was in 1995. At least not for me. I think it was probably the fact that the only child in the house was a two-year-old going on three and her mom and I were young and high spirited too. The magic was definitely with us that Christmas.
The following 24 years are now much of a blur. The toddler quickly turned to a teen and there was much more to do than wait around the house for a visit from old St. Nick. But we did, every single year we did. We still do and the crackle and boom of the largest firecracker I can find still arouses our household of three — three on Christmas Eve now anyway — before dawn. My dad would say, still does say, “it smells like Christmas,” as the aroma of gunpowder wafts though the air.
For years now, we’ve hosted a Christmas dinner on December 25th. It began as a small gathering of just a few misfit friends and family that no longer had kids of their own at home, and not much to do after the excitement of Christmas morn. It has grown a bit each year and now some of those kids even come back and join us and bring along some of their friends as well.
The dinner party invitation list has always included my mom and dad, and since September 29th, every single time I sit down at the table or lean against the bar, at the lake house where it all began, and will continue tonight, I can see Mom walking though the kitchen door last year, or perhaps it was the year before. “Something sure smells good,” she proclaimed with a big smile, and we all commented on how pretty she looked in her, pink leather jacket.
She’ll only be with us in our hearts this year. She’s enjoying Christmas dinner at Jesus’ birthday party. She’s safe and sound and healthy, and the twinkle of the stars, like the twinkle in my little girl’s eyes 24 years ago, reminds us that she’s watching over this gathering still.
We expect 20-something friends and family members to be sitting down at various tables strewn around the house tonight. There will be laughter, and tears, and tears of laughter too. Yes, this dinner party will be different, but we won’t be blue, no we won’t be blue at all...‘cause Mom wore pink at Christmas and the sound of her laughter, and the smile that matched her outfit that year, is one we cherish to remember!
Christmas Day has arrived my friends, and it is my wish for all of you that today, tomorrow, and throughout the coming new year, if you don’t have it already, you find the gift of peace that my little family holds in our hearts this holiday season.
Merry Christmas to you all!