For Christmas 1991, my mother-in-law gave me a sweet hardcovered book titled Deck the Hall, a sort of journal for keeping Christmas memories. It has lovely vintage illustrations inside, along with some holiday recipes and places to paste photos. But the most important thing is that it has empty pages to record details from each Christmas under the headings "Our Family and Friends," "Holiday Menus," "Family Milestones and Memories," and "Gifts Given and Received." On the first page of this book, it says: "Here is a Christmas keepsake book in which you may record all the particulars of your own family's Christmas celebrations, year after year for a decade (plus a year to grow on!). You'll have room for records of who came, what was served, gifts given and received, family photographs...and for each year's special moments and memories."
This little memory book is now one of my most precious keepsakes, because I faithfully kept it each and every Christmas for eleven years, until there were no more empty pages to fill. I can tell you every detail of those eleven Christmases--whom we saw, what we ate, and what our favorite presents were; but more importantly, I can tell you those sweet, priceless "particulars" that may have been forgotten if I hadn't jotted them down in my cherished copy of Deck the Hall.
For instance, on Christmas day 1991, my eight-year-old firstborn son--who'd gotten the radio-controlled race car he'd wanted so badly--couldn't stop saying, "Santa sure knows what I like!" (Wink wink, nudge nudge. That Santa's something, isn't he?) And that same year, my #4 son, who was three and going on four at the time, was almost beside himself over all of the "Cwismas Pwesents" he'd gotten--but especially an enormous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turle action figure that was almost as big as he was. He followed me around all day long, holding his precious Leonardo by the arm and asking, "Mom, do you wish you were a kid so you could get this turtle?" It didn't matter how many times I said, "I sure do!"--he simply couldn't stop asking that question! (Actually, that's something I would have remembered without this book. It was simply adorable!)
I even jotted down wake-up times in my little copy of Deck the Hall. In 1991, my two oldest sons woke up at 3:30 a.m. In 1992, the two oldest woke up at 1:00 a.m. and son #4 woke up at 3:00. Son #3 was the sleepyhead that year: he slept in until 4:30! (Are you seeing a pattern here?) I have pretty clear memories of extremely early Christmas morning wake-ups without my memory book. But when I was thumbing through it today, I found an interesting little tidbit from Christmas 1994 that I'd forgotten: my husband and I actually woke our kids up at 3:00 a.m. that year so that Daddy could see what Santa had brought before he had to leave for work. We woke our kids up...at 3:00 a.m.!! But when you're an airline pilot and you're not the most senior guy on the list, you often have to work holidays; so we did what we had to do to have a special Christmas all together. Here's what I wrote in my memory book about that incident: "This was the first year no one had woken up on their own by that time!" (Oh, the irony.)
When my kids were little and I was right in the thick of raising them, I didn't think I'd forget all the miniutiae of each wonderful Christmas; but as I've gotten older, the memories have become a bit hazier. It all goes by so fast! Sometimes I wish I could just go back there, even for a day--and Christmas day would be fun, wouldn't it? I would love to see those five darling little boys in their cartoon character jammies (pants optional), with their smooth little rosy faces (pre-facial hair), and their blue eyes shining with delight as they open their "Cwismas Pwesents." In fact, I'd just like to hear the phrase "Cwismas Pwesents" uttered one more time.
And that, my friends, is why God gives old folks like me grandchildren!