Around this time of year, my laundry room has usually turned into a Christmas production area, stocked with Christmas paper, tape, scissors and bows. Hidden in every nook and cranny are stocking stuffers, toys and gifts for godchildren, grandparents, and good friends.
All of these gifts are tucked away, waiting for the big Christmas Eve wrap. That’s when I’d bunker down in the laundry room and wrap for what seemed like hours. Who am I kidding? It was hours, and every year I’d curse myself for waiting until Christmas Eve. Yet every year I’d do the same thing, like the Groundhog Day movie, except I never learned my lesson.
There’s probably good reason.
After the wrapping, I’d move the gifts to under the Christmas tree, which was twinkling in the dark by then because it was well after midnight. The hodgepodge of ornaments I always thought ugly in the daylight magically transformed into something whimsical and beautiful when surrounded by an aura of lights. I’d stand back and lose myself in the moment. Then again, maybe I was falling asleep standing up.
There is that quiet moment around midnight when the kids are tucked sound asleep in their beds and the gifts are tucked under a tree that is decorated with memories and love. It’s magic. Quiet magic that transports me back to my own childhood, when I’d cozy up on the couch at night and fall asleep watching the flickering lights on the Christmas tree. My own kids would bask in that same colorful ambiance during their childhood years.
Of course, kids grow up and traditions change.
I’m no longer bunkering down in the laundry room on Christmas Eve because my kids are now two young adults and a teenager. Gifts are fewer and smaller, yet they cost me more money. The Christmas magic is less in the pitter-patter of small feet, the tearing open of gifts and yelps of joy on Christmas morning and more in the mere presence of family.
When the temporary magic of materialism and commercialism is gone, what’s left is what we’ve always recognized as most important. Family.
The gift of having our whole family home for just a few special days is magical for me. In a few short strides, I can reach my son to give him a squeeze or tousle his hair. With a gentle push of a bedroom door, I can see my daughter’s bare feet hanging over the edge of her bed while the rest of her body is hidden deep under the blankets. I remember seeing this familiar scene throughout her childhood. How does she breathe under those blankets? Don’t her itty-bitty feet get cold?
So this is what it comes to, this new stage in parenting, when our children visit their home rather than live in their home. We become nostalgic, like our grandparents, only now we understand why. It’s not that they can’t let go of the past, it’s that the past brings back magic from a time they cherished with their whole hearts. They can’t help but reminisce.
If we could read between their memories, this is what they might say: What you have in front of you at this very moment – this moment you’re trying to rush through so you can get to the next load of laundry or the next meal or the next hockey practice? It’s fleeting. You will blink, as the old saying goes, and you’ll feel a tug at your chest when you realize the moment is gone. You’ll search for those magical memories to sustain you.
My advice: Make sure you’ve created enough memories to last a lifetime.