The Christmas Years, an essay by Linda Flock at
Eva Michalkova

The Christmas Years

The Christmas Years

written by: Linda Flock


As a child, I was just like any other kid, Christmas = toys! My siblings and I would write down a list of what we wanted Santa to bring us. I would define our family’s financial status as somewhat poor; although, I suppose we were not the poorest of the poor. The Salvation Army supplied my parents with some toys for under our tree. While one very meaningful present from the Salvation Army was not on my list, it was the best present of all. It was a rag doll, a clown with a smile on its face and it put a smile on my face. Amidst the hardship and illnesses that were plaguing my family at the time, the doll became my escape, my security blanket, and my savior. It kept the monsters away at night and when my dad passed away, it helped me through the grief.

The years went by and I couldn’t wait for Christmas; after all Christmas = presents. There was nothing greater than receiving presents and so I thought. I graduated high school and immediately got a job. Feeling the independence of earning a weekly paycheck, Christmas was becoming a time to give rather than receive. I loved watching others open a gift of unexpectedness. It brought me joy in knowing that I brought joy to someone else especially if that joy was coming from my mother. Each Christmas I’d try and create something special that would “wow” her just so I could see a smile on her face.

As the years continued to go by and I got older, Christmas began to take on a different meaning for me. While I still took joy in giving, I was more caught up in being a part of something greater than the gifts. I realized that Christmas was a time for family to come together to share and care and to love; it’s where the true joy was taking place.

Christmas Eve was always at my mother’s house. My mother cooked a traditional Italian fish dinner. She took pride in each creation. When it was time for dinner all of us kids and grandkids would sit down at the dinner table which was set to perfection. We’d bow our heads while my mother said grace. I often picked up my head and opened my eyes long enough to capture the emotion on my mother’s face. I could almost feel the joy in her heart. Nothing brought her more pleasure than having her family together, especially at Christmas. The look on her face was priceless and the feeling in her heart couldn’t be denied.

I didn’t quite understand why my mother chose to spend countless hours cooking after she’d worked an 8 hour day. She’d be exhausted. By the time the gifts were all opened, she’d be fighting to stay awake. I often thought that maybe going out to dinner would have been a better option. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite my thoughts, I didn’t completely miss it; I did get it; many times too. There were many Christmases at her home where I consciously was in the moment, knowing very well that we were building memories. How many people are aware of the memory they are creating in a moment?

Years continued to go by with Christmases at my mother’s house until 2004 at which time she passed away but not before she gave me years of Christmas memories and not before I figured out how meaningful that one day a year meant to her.

Since her passing, I haven’t felt that old Christmas spirit; quite like the Christmases at my mother’s house. I know I will never forget the Christmas of yesterday gone by. I’m grateful for the memories she gave to me but I’d give anything to have one more Christmas with her. I’d spend it just watching her. I’d soak in the moments of seeing the joy on her face knowing that I was a part of that joy.

Nowadays throughout the rush hour of Christmas between shopping and preparations, I remind myself of the true meaning behind Christmas; the birth of our lord Jesus Christ. It’s a time to celebrate him and that in itself is what will keep my Christmases joyful along with the warm feelings of the Christmases from a time ago.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping; so caught up that the stress overshadows the joy of the holiday and that’s not how it was meant to be. Christmas isn’t about trampling over other people to get the best sales; it’s not about keeping up with the latest trends or electronics. The only winners here are the retailers. How far do we go before Christmas will lose its true meaning and before expectations get beyond our reach? Our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents had it right because what they gave came from their heart.

One final thought, the greatest gift you can give, won’t be found in a store because they don’t sell memories there.

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