There is something about the traditional holiday season (Thanksgiving to Christmas) that warms the heart. Perhaps more than any other time of year the holiday season is a rich blend of old and new, of what was and what will be, of memories and dreams.
Looking back comes easy at this time of year and this time of life. This is the season of smells – the warm aromas of roasting turkey and dressing wafting from the oven every time my mother decided it was time to baste the bird. Evergreen, just as much scent as sight, as I smell again the fresh balsam Christmas tree that filled our living room and greeted me when I crept down the stairs too early Christmas morning.
Of course, delicious smells mean delicious tastes. My childhood focus was on all the treats and desserts of the season. My favorite then and now were the cookies, actually a particular cookie. I’ve learned that some call them Mexican wedding cakes, others Russian tea cakes. I don’t recall that my mother called them anything in particular. My wife also bakes them each year; I very aptly call them “little white round ball cookies”. Whatever they are, they are Christmas to me.
The holiday season meant big family meals. Being the youngest of the family I can recall the excitement building as each of my older siblings pulled in the driveway with their own respective families. A busy house is a happy house. The leaves were added to the dining room table and extra card tables and chairs were brought up from the basement, so that there was a seat for everyone. Our kitchen and dining room was one big room so there was a true sense of being all together. My heart still warms, especially now, because many of those who I see in my mind seated around the kitchen table of my youth only live here now in my memory. I can still hear you laugh and see your smiles; I haven’t forgotten any of you.
Even my own family is firmly rooted in our own past. Those who I recall opening up gifts of first baseball mitts, Barbie dolls and BB guns now spend Christmas mornings watching their own children (some already now young adults) open their own presents before coming to gather together at our home. Still, we make sure to hang the silver glass ball that used to hang on those many farmhouse Christmas trees of Michelle’s youth, and we set out the aging plaster Nativity set with the ox and donkey with broken off left ears.
Newly retired now, we are enjoying these days full of each other’s company and affections. Michelle may be referred to as Grandma now by our children and grandchildren, but she is still my lovely bride to me. We still feel the strong pull of joined hearts. True, we can see farther back than forward these days, but we still plan our future. That’s how you keep the holidays well, and that’s how you keep love both full and evergreen, a balance of memories and dreams.