Christmas for me has always been a time for meditation and reflection…refreshed hope swirled with bittersweet nostalgia…like marshmallows melting into warm chocolate. I have so many wonderful memories from Christmases past, and as my mind sifts through those memories, a common thread weaves them together. That thread is love.
When I was five years old, my mother took me downtown on the bus to do our Christmas shopping. In 1955, all of the shops and department stores were still downtown. I was fascinated by the city. I loved the crowds…the hustle and bustle…the stately old buildings. Yes…Christmas in Memphis was magical in those days. Mom held my hand as we walked up and down the busy streets, admiring the holiday window displays and marveling at the spectacular decorations and sparkling lights. We ate lunch at Britlings Cafeteria, (upstairs, of course!) then she took me to The Enchanted Forest at Goldsmiths, so I could visit with Santa Claus and give him my wish list. Afterwards, we relaxed at the drugstore soda fountain on the corner of Main Street and Madison Avenue, waiting for the bus, surrounded by shopping bags filled with goodies, and warming ourselves with steaming cups of hot cocoa.
And then, there was that Christmas in 1976. I was living in a ratty little apartment in Midtown. I didn’t have much money, but I had tons of friends. I managed to get a small Christmas tree, but couldn’t afford to buy decorations to put on it. One night, everybody came over with lots of construction paper, glitter, paint and markers. They brought bottles of cheap screw-top wine and bags of chips and candy. We drank wine, sang, danced, partied way into the night, and made ornaments for the tree. The more we drank, the wackier the ornaments became. Before they left, we all stumbled outdoors for an impromptu snowball fight. Later in the wee hours, I sat alone in the dark admiring my wonky, beautiful tree as I drifted off to sleep.
When my daughter was young, I had the opportunity to experience again the wonders of Christmas from a child‘s perspective. By then, most of the stores had moved out east to the malls. But I would take her downtown to The Enchanted Forest to see Santa Claus and we would drink hot cocoa at the drugstore, just like my mom and I had done so many years before.
When she was a teenager, we would stay up late on Christmas Eve to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” then go to Midnight Mass at Holy Rosary. We weren’t Catholic, but we loved that feeling of bundling up in our coats, gloves, and scarves, dashing out into the frosty winter night, and entering the warm, candlelit church to worship, sing carols, and acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas. Afterwards, we almost always ended up at CK’s diner, talking and laughing over plates of scrambled eggs and pancakes.
Tonight I’m at home, drinking hot tea next to a crackling fire. I don’t have a tree, but I have two sock snowmen on the mantle to remind me that Christmas is right around the corner. My boyfriend is snoring in his La-Z-Boy, Ralph is contently chewing on a skanky rawhide bone that I wish he would take to another room, and I am sitting here time traveling through Christmases past. Soon I’ll spend another Christmas with family and friends. There’ll be fun times, good food, and lots of love. They will get to meet Ralph for the first time. Hopefully he won’t pee on their carpet. I will see my adorable one year old grandson, Jameson, and once again I’ll get a chance to experience Christmas through the eyes of a child. I have so much to be thankful for….we all do…
Much Love and Merry Christmas!