Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas memories.

I love Christmastime. I love the decorations, the lights, the colors, the cookies people give you that you HAVE to eat. I love it all.

And I love to think back on Christmas memories, too.

I remember the Christmas that I asked for a "stereo" and Erin enthusiastically agreed that she, too, wanted a "radio." When, on Christmas morning, I stood in front of my huge stereo from Santa and she stood there holding her Pepsi-bottle radio with a bewildered look, we both developed an appreciation for vocabulary . . .

I remember the day Erin and I found a bunch of presents in my parents' shower but didn't say anything because we didn't want to get in trouble for snooping. And then, when those presents were in our living room from Santa on Christmas morning, we confronted our parents about it. How could those presents be from Santa when they were in their shower just a few days before? I remember my parents NEVER skipping a beat and saying that Santa had dropped them off early because he wasn't going to be able to get to ALL the houses on Christmas Eve. So he had asked them to help him by putting the presents out for him. I remember the feeling of relief that flooded through me - OF COURSE . . . that made PERFECT sense. Erin and I had a good laugh that we had EVER thought that maybe Santa wasn't real - how silly we were - and went back to our toys with relieved hearts.

I think back to elementary school Christmas parties and how proud I always was to give my teacher a present. I think about a Barbie mansion I got when I was a kid - that present still sticks out so vividly for me. I think about my mom's perfect cursive spelling out "Catherine" on my stocking on the fireplace. I think about the magic that has been and always WILL be Christmas for me.

And, of course, I think about my dad. So many of my memories are wrapped up with him: Dad videotaping us opening our presents. Dad going on and on about an ugly orange ice-scraper I gave him when I was a kid. How his voice sounded when we he was putting on a show of excitement over our little gifts. The way he let us stick bows from our presents in his hair as we opened each package. How he loved watching his grandkids opening their gifts. And just the way he loved making Christmas the most magical time of year for his girls. If I wrote for a million years, I could never craft a sentence that would sufficiently capture how much I miss my dad.

But, thankfully, he lives on in the great memories that he left behind.

For instance, I remember my second grade Christmas party in Ms. Armstrong's class and how Santa came all the way from the North Pole to visit our party. I got to sit on his lap and tell him what I wanted and that was VERY exciting to me. But as I sat there, I started to get a bit suspicious because Santa had shoes JUST like my dad. And he smelled like my dad, too - like Old Spice. It all seemed a bit too familiar. But I shook it off because that was silly - this was SANTA and I was wasting precious time by thinking about his shoes, of all things. I needed to recite my list quickly before I lost my opportunity. So I looked up at his face and opened my mouth to begin my recitation when I noticed his eyes - they looked AWFULLY familiar . . . my dad had a twinkle in his eye that was unmistakable. And then I knew it was him. He looked like he was holding back a laugh so I'm sure he could see the recognition on my little face. When I got home, I asked him if he had played Santa but he, of course, said no. And had a million perfect answers for my million questions. I hounded him about it for days but he just laughed and said it was Santa Claus. I never really dropped it - I probably asked him once a year until I was thirty to see if he'd ever tell me the truth. But no matter how old I was when I'd bring it up he would swear it was the REAL Santa Claus. Ironically, as he denied it, he'd get that telltale twinkle in his eye . . .
Another memory that keeps coming to mind is a tradition - my absolute FAVORITE Christmas tradition - that my dad started on our street: each year on Christmas Eve, the neighbors get together to do luminaries. My dad always got the bags and sand and coordinated with the neighbors so that we could light up our little cul de sac with over four hundred luminaries. He had scientifically developed a proper folding method that had to be taught to our neighbors each year so that the bags would look pretty and not all mangled up. And he had to get WHITE sand so that the glow from the bag would not be overshadowed by a layer of dark sand at the bottom of the bag. It was all VERY well thought out. Each year we tried to do more luminaries than we had the year before - we Palmores are naturally competitive, you see . . .

While my dad was here, our record over the years was 476 - we've since done 500. On a nine house cul de sac, that is a sight to see! He loved that tradition because it got all the neighbors out and visiting on Christmas Eve and because he loved trying to break the previous year's record. We did it for my dad's last Christmas - all our neighbors had felt so strongly about coming together to light up the street for him that year. He managed to make it outside to visit for a few minutes but he was too sick and probably too emotional to really enjoy it. Even though there is sadness associated with that memory, it's also one of my favorites because of the love that everyone showed my dad. I will remember it for the rest of my life. We've been blessed with wonderful people in our lives.

We do the luminaries now as sort of a tribute to my daddy. To the light that he represented in the lives around him.

I wish my dad were still here. I wish I could hear him laughing at the kids as they open up their gifts and say funny little things. I wish I could give him a hug and tell him thanks for being such a great dad and for playing Santa Claus at my party in second grade. I wish I could hear him deny that it was him. But even though I can't have him back, I'm so thankful that I had the kind of dad who left me with great memories to make me laugh and make me miss him. I hope to be that kind of person in my life, as well. It's something to strive for.
I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas celebrating with your friends and families and that you make lots of memories to hold on to for years to come. My wish for you this Christmas is that you are part of bringing light into the lives of those around you and that whether you are disguised by a Santa costume, buried under a mountain of gifts that have to be wrapped, or standing in a long line at the mall, that you will be recognized by the twinkle in your eye . . .

Merry Christmas, my friends!


Catherine said...

By the way . . . if you're around on Christmas Eve, come by my mom and dad's street to see the luminaries! We'll be trying to light 500 this year!! Email me for directions:

Merry Christmas!!!

Tracy said...

Once again, you've got me all teary-eyed, Catchy!

Your Dad was such a special man. :)

You've definitely got that twinkle in your eye, too. Love you and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Unknown said...

I share your wish that Dad were still here and that he could still hug us. Actually, I could have used a hug this morning when I bumped my head really hard and started to cry. I stopped crying pretty quickly though because I could almost hear him say "Palmores don't cry". The Hell they don't!!! The cry when their kids write sad blogs about Christmas memories!!!

Remember his favorite Christmas story about how his family was so poor that all they got for Christmas was fruit, nuts and candy. He said he only got two Christmas presents in his whole life. And they were the same one!! One year he got a real tool set - saw and all (or should I say awl). He got to play with it for a few weeks and then it disappeared. The next Christmas it was under the tree again, but he was so little he just thought he was lucky enough to get a new set to replace the one he had "lost".

We were lucky to have him. And every time a memory pops into our minds and makes us smile, it's kind of like a little hug from him.