I love everything Christmas…the music, decorations, gifts, family time, and wonderful themed stories. Every year when I begin to write my next Christmas story (usually as July rolls around) I am taken back to the heartwarming holiday memories of my childhood.
When the subject of Christmas gifts comes up, most people think of packages wrapped in colorful paper and shimmery bows, sitting under the Christmas tree, just waiting to be opened. But when I think of Christmas gifts, I think of my dad, who passed away eighteen years ago. He was a man of many talents and boundless wisdom, including the joy he shared for the traditions of Christmas.
Dad loved light—especially the light that brightened a fresh-cut pine tree. Each December first, like clockwork, Dad piled his family—all seven of us—into our Chevy station wagon and drove us down the road to the corner tree lot where, shivering in the Chicago-winter cold, we oohed and aahed over each and every fir until we found the perfect one.
Once home, with the tree safely arranged in a metal stand and watered, Dad climbed the ladder to our attic (a mysterious place, indeed) where the Christmas lights were stored. He’d lower the battered cardboard box (re-used, season after season) to the floor below where we all stood anxiously waiting.
Then my brother and sisters—five of us—gathered around him in the living room and waited, eyes huge with wonder, as he dusted cobwebs from the box, opened it, and carefully unraveled the strands of lights. He tested each one, and no matter how stubborn the bulbs, dad always managed to get them working.
Beautiful, vibrant colors turned the room to a kaleidoscope, dancing over walls and windows with the feel of winter magic. One by one, my siblings and I each took the place of honor beside Dad, helping him to adorn the tree with light. Pine sap clung to our fingers, but we didn’t care. All the while, our hearts soared with happiness and innocent wonder.
Finally, dad gently gathered the Christmas star from the box. Hushed with awe, we waited while he chose one of us to hoist to his shoulders for the greatest thrill—placing the treasured beacon of light—the star—atop the highest limb. Somehow, Dad always sensed who needed that extra touch of attention, and there was never any argument.
With the lights in place (just in time for nightfall) we circled the tree and held hands to sing a chorus of carols. In the earliest years, the tune didn’t always carry and the words were sometimes off, but Dad didn’t care. He knew we understood what the tree, and especially the lights, symbolized…the most wonderful gift of all!
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Merry Christmas in July! To celebrate I’m giving away an e-copy of my holiday story, Winter Wishes and Snowflake Kisses. Please comment below to be entered into the drawing. One name will be randomly selected on August 2. Good luck!