Christmas Memories

As we draw closer to Christmas day, I find a flood of memories filling my mind. Some are good memories, some are funny, some are sad. But such are the ingredients of life. Capturing these memories felt important, necessary, desired. As I sat down to write them out, I decided some were worthy of the blog where I share my life stories.Nativity Scene at Centennial Park in Nashville, TN (1954-1967) via Nashville Archives

Not too long ago I posted on memory triggers. In the last few days, a high school classmate posted an image on our graduating class’s Facebook page. (Image: Nativity Scene at Centennial Park in Nashville, TN (1954-1967) via Nashville Archives)

That image triggered a rush of memories.

Suddenly I could feel the biting cold of the night air as we stood under the stars and gazed upon the largest nativity I had ever seen. Every year we piled in the car, bundled from head to toe, to join with hundreds, maybe thousands, of other citizens in and around Nashville to view the Nativity donated by a local businessman.

And then it was a quick drive home to warm up and crawl into bed but not until Dad had read the nativity passage from the Bible. Mom, Dad, and I — and years later my younger brother — gathered on the living room sofa with the lights twinkling on the tree and our now somewhat very small nativity lit on top of the radio/phonograph console.

Memories by now were marching on and I’m thinking back to one Christmas night when I was about seven, almost eight. As all children experience, I went to bed when told but could not sleep. Waiting and listening for any sound that evidenced the arrival of Old St. Nick.

There it was. Sounds of activity in the living room. Voices even. Could it be?

Only one way to find out. I quietly climbed from my bed, opened my door, and peeked into the hall. Someone was in the living room!

Tiptoeing as quietly as possible I made my way down the hall. He was in the living room. Putting together a blue bicycle! Oh, how I had dreamed of this moment. My very own blue bicycle. And Santa, right there before my eyes!

1955 Hanes Ad via Google 1955 Hanes Ad via Google

Strange — Santa wasn’t wearing the familiar red suit. Instead he was wearing jockey shorts and the standard male undershirt of the day. A toolbox sat by his side and an instruction sheet laid out to follow along. Didn’t his elves put everything together for Santa to deliver?

And there was Mom, her hair in curlers and her in her robe in the middle of the night. What was she doing up with Santa in his underwear?

This was definitely not what I expected. I gasped and gulped back my tears.

Santa was evidently my mom and dad. All this time I believed in a man in a red suit with a snow-white beard who drove a sleigh pulled by reindeer and delivered toys all over the world. The truth sat in my living room, right before my eyes!

Mom and Dad looked up at my gasp, and they knew then that the secret of Santa was no more. Their little girl discovered the truth on this very night called Christmas Eve.

I sat in Mom’s lap while Dad finished putting the bike together. He sat me on it and promised the next morning he would take me out to go for a spin.

Santa or no Santa, I gave Dad a big smile!

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These are only a couple of my Christmas memories that came back to me this last week. Have you experienced any cherished memories in the past few days or weeks? Perhaps you’ll share them in the comments below.

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Healing by Writing will be quiet until the first of the year. It’s a time to be spent with family and cherishing the new memories being made. I hope you’ll be doing the same.

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Enable Your Senses

A few days ago my husband and I had a morning filled with running errands. We decided to grab lunch at a place called Betty Boop’s. The little cafe happens to live next door to a classic car show room, Memory Lane Motors.

Attribution: How Stuff Works
Attribution: How Stuff Works

My husband is a classic car fanatic, and I enjoy looking at the classics myself. On this particular day there were lots of convertibles being showcased. It was after all a rare sunny day in the Pacific NW!

However, what caught my eye was an old Chevrolet pickup, vintage 1935 or so, modified as a grocer’s truck. The truck was very similar to the one here, which is a 1947 Dodge.

The first words out of my mouth were, “Oh, when I was a kid, we had a truck like this come through our neighborhood.” Suddenly, the aroma of produce and truck smells all came back to me. And visually, I could see the scales that hung at the back of the truck.

The truck in our neighborhood was slightly different in that both sides were open and one contained a section of penny bubble gum and candy. The joy of being handed a penny to buy something was big thing in the 1950s.

But enough about the truck. What I want to write about is allowing our senses to guide our memories. Let’s look at the bolded and italicized paragraph above:

The first words out of my mouth were, “Oh, when I was a kid, we had a truck like this come through our neighborhood.” The aroma of produce and truck smells all came back to me. And visually, I could see the scales that hung at the back of the truck.

My senses were obviously heightened as my eyes rested on the truck. But who enters a place called Memory Lane and doesn’t begin floating back in time.

As writers, when we are out and about in the world-at-large, we need to have our senses at the ready — sight, hearing, touch, smell and even taste. Each one can trigger memories long forgotten. Those memories may be what you’ve searched for to fill a gap in your memoir or an essay or short nonfiction piece you’re working on.

Our senses are God-given and intended to enhance our lives. Without them, life would be boring. How would we know a rose by its fragrance, or an orange by its taste or even its color? How would we ever smell bread baking?

So, we shouldn’t allow these magical gifts to sit back and become lazy — allow them to help you rediscover past scenes, to trigger those memories long forgotten.

Attribution: Nicki Dugan via Flickr
Attribution: Nicki Dugan via Flickr