I spent the day looking at the clock. Is five o’clock ever coming?! Mom spent the day cooking. Dad was somewhere around the house doing something. Christmas Eve was the longest day of the year because I could not wait to get to Granny and Granddaddy’s house. I bothered Mom all day, “When can we leave?” and she put up with me. ~smile~
Finally, we packed the car with food, presents, and ourselves, and headed over the river bridge singing, “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go!” When we arrived, my cousins would be in the empty street throwing the football. (Don’t you miss the sound of a sibling, cousin, or friend yelling “Car!”?) We brought in all the goodies and waited impatiently for dinner time. Granny’s kitchen smelled amazing – a smell I would love to encounter right about now!
Then, we ate! The children polished off their food in record time and then started sniffing around the Christmas tree. Grown-ups eat too slowly. It is ridiculous. Maybe if they talked less and chewed more, we could get to the main event! We did not know it then, but that was the main event. (Take away all the stuff and give me back those precious people I took for granted!)
After we finished the meal, the adults would slowly meander their way into the living room and den for Bible and prayer time. Without fail, every year (still today) we read a portion of Luke chapter two. After Bible reading, we had prayer time (yep, still do). It only lasted about five minutes but to the kiddos, it lasted forever. What a sound, though. All my family kneeling and praying out loud at once. It was precious. What I would not give to hear my Granny pray one more time.
Then, the sound of their prayers died down and adults started passing out presents. It was a free for all – tissue paper flying everywhere. Barbies, Micro Machines, Transformers, stuffed animals – it was a good time.
After cleaning up the carnage, we settled in for some chill out time. The women laughing in the kitchen, the men watched TV in the den, and the children played. It was a night I never wanted to end. The drive home was magical for my little eyes. The downtown lights were beautiful and filled me with excitement for what was to come in the morning.
I wish I could remember each year individually. If only I had kept a journal, I would have those memories locked down. Below are a few special Christmas treasures tucked away in my heart.
- 1989 – This Christmas stands out in my memory for two reasons. Living in the Southeastern US, we did not see a lot of snow; but, in the Winter of 1989, we had a crazy snowstorm. It is the only white Christmas I remember in my lifetime. Along with the snow, that is the year my dad (yes, my dad) got my favorite Cabbage Patch Kid, Shermie. Mom happened to be in Walmart one year near Christmastime when she ran into my Aunt. They saw this bald baby doll named Sherman Spencer. Dad was bald and his middle name was Sherman. So, on Christmas Eve in front of his entire family, my thirty-four-year-old Dad opened a Cabbage Patch kid. What was meant as a one-time holiday joke turned into a family institution. Shermie went on vacations with us, to Pizza Hut, and thanks to my parents and their puppeteering abilities, Shermie talked, told jokes, and got into all kinds of mischief. When I think of 1989, I think of the snowy year when Shermie came to live with us.
- 1992 – Unfortunately, I do not remember much about this Christmas, but I wish I did. I vaguely recall being in a school play which incorporated Elvis Presley and elves, but that is about it. We had no idea it was our last Christmas with Granddaddy, and so I wish I could remember him smiling and watching us open our gifts. He loved Christmas Eve, so I am sure he had a wonderful time. Knowing that makes my heart smile super big!
- 2001 – This year stands out because Mom was different. In previous years, she worried so much about presents. She always felt like she did not get me enough. She always did, but she worried just the same. Coming from a loving home, there really was no such thing as “enough presents.” I was blessed even if there were no presents. But, 2001 was a tough year. In January, my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. For the next eleven months, Mom was by her side in the nursing home every chance she got. When the end was near, she took a leave of absence from work to be with her mom as much as possible. On December 4th, my grandma passed away and we buried her on December 7th. That year, Mom hosted Christmas Eve dinner at our house. She did not seem stressed like usual. She did not rush back and forth to get more gifts. She was simply there with us. It was a difficult year, but I will always remember that Christmas as a special one because she was at peace.
- 2002 – I am home from college! Nothing made me appreciate home more than going away to school. No specific memories stick out to me about this year other than the fact I was home and so thankful to be in my bed with my parents in the next room. That was the best gift of all!
- 2004 – I am engaged! I remember opening a space heater from my parents and Eric saying, “This will go great in my office at work!” I looked at him as if to say, “Did you not see ‘Heather’ written on that package?” This was my first taste of share and share alike. Mom and Dad felt so bad they went out and bought another heater so we could both have one. ~smile~ (Eric, you are hilarious. You don’t mean to be. And, I love you.)
- 2005 – I am married! My gift-giving skills were basically non-existent at this point, at least when it came to Eric. I recall giving him amazing keepsakes like his favorite facewash and deodorant (or was that the year before?). Maybe it was not a banner year for presents, but we were together and that is what mattered most. ~smile~
- 2007 – Christmas in Boise! Eric’s dad and stepmom live in Boise, Idaho and they gifted us with plane tickets that year! Our niece was only six-weeks old and it was so fun to have a baby girl with us at Christmas. She is thirteen now. How is that possible? It was my first Christmas outside of North Carolina and I got to see what celebrating is like with brothers and sisters. I missed my extended family, of course, and we were able to have a belated celebration with them when we returned to the East Coast. But, the Northwest is beautiful!
- 2010 – Our first Christmas with Ramsey (our golden retriever). She was the cutest little retriever reindeer ever. My main memory of this year was Eric trying tirelessly to get her to wear her Dollar Tree light up reindeer ears. She was not having it… at all! We finally got a decent picture (she held still for a whopping three seconds), but it was quite the ordeal and Eric would not give up!
- 2015 – This is the year Eric and I started our ornament exchange tradition. Each Christmas morning at midnight, we exchange an ornament. So far, Eric has given me a Precious Moments ornament each year – (2015) a partridge in a pair tree, (2016) two turtle doves, (2017) three French hens, (2018) four calling birds, and (2019) five golden rings. I wonder what this year’s ornament will be? Hmmm? Each year, I try to find Eric an ornament which fits with the events of the year. We have a lot of fun with it! I highly recommend this tradition!
- 2018 – Back to Boise! This time my brother-in-law and my nephews from Colorado got to join us for Christmas. It was the first time we were all together under one roof since Dad and Dee married in 2005. We sang, laughed, played games, acted completely silly, and had a wonderful time. In just a few years (if not sooner), these fine young men are going out into the world. I can hardly believe the toddlers who came to my wedding are men now. Spending time with them was priceless.
- 2019 – This Christmas was bittersweet. Bitter because we missed Dad so much (who unexpectedly passed just a handful of months earlier), but sweet because he was spending Christmas the way we all want to – in the presence of our Lord and Savior. It was also sweet because we clung more tightly to each other. When we lose a part of our hearts, we tend to notice others more. We start saying “I love you” more. Over the past year and a half, I have said I love you to almost everyone in my life – friends, family, church family. Some feel awkward, but I say it anyway. I want them to know how I feel. Now is the time for your loved ones to know what they mean to you.
What bothers me about this list is how few details I remember. Even if it is just a few sentences, I would encourage you all to keep a journal of your firsts (e.g., first date, first anniversary, first expensive dinner, first fight, etc.) – as well as annual holidays (e.g., Christmas, New Years, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.). Keep track of some details. You will be so glad you did, and what a special gift that journal will be to yourself and your children someday.
We wish you all the Merriest Christmas. Make some precious memories and document them for yourselves and your posterity!
No matter what this Christmas season brings, choose joy.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:8-9, ESV)
Which Christmas memories stand out to you the most?