The house is quiet tonight, almost too quiet. All of the Christmas company has gone home, the tree has been taken down, and the fireworks commemorating the new year are going off all around my house. As I reflect on yet another holiday season coming to a close, I’m reminded of another lesson I learned from my mother. Christmas isn’t just one day. Well, it is and it isn’t. What she meant is that Christmas is a season and a feeling and that it doesn’t have to be confined to one 24-hour period. When we spend so much time, money, energy, and thought into making the day one of unimaginable splendor and beauty, we sometimes miss the meaning and the magic.

So that’s got me thinking of when I first realized, “Oh, it’s here again!” Was it when I first saw the Salvation Army people collecting money at Wal-Mart? Or was it when I turned in the last grade for the semester? No, maybe it was the day after that when I attended a luncheon at our local CCTC satellite campus. Or no, I think it was actually when I arrived in NYC with three like-minded gals for a day of sightseeing and shopping in the Big Apple. If there’s anyone on earth who can see the Macy’s store windows and the huge “Believe” sign on the front of the block-sized department store and not feel the spirit, that person has some psychological issues.

I did a lot of fun things this season (including the above mentioned trip to Manhattan!), but when it comes right down to it, my most precious recollections have to do with people, the people I love…and some who are strangers too. In no particular order, here are a few sweet memories.

  • Seeing the Salvation Army men dancing dancing dancing in NYC. In front of Macy’s and at Rockefeller Center, these spirited men were entertaining the crowds and raising money for a good cause.
  • Seeing Santa sitting on a bench near Rockefeller Center. Jolly old Saint Nick happily posed for a picture with Kayla, the youngest of our group.
  • My husband’s children and their partners and children joining us on the afternoon of the 17th for food and fellowship. We were especially happy that Kacey could join us this year. And all of remarked on how much difference a year could make. Baby Charlie was walking all over the place, and last year he couldn’t even crawl yet.
  • Earlier that day, we had a Christmas get-together with all of my husband’s siblings and their families. When he and I first got married, these events were held in a home, but now that the family has grown so much, we’ve moved the party to a local church. Santa came. He was jolly and patient, but he couldn’t fool Whitney. “He’s not the real Santa,” she confided in me. “I could see the strap holding his beard.”
  • The night of the 22nd when I saw three of my grandchildren’s faces pressed up against window of the breezeway door. I flung open the door, hugged them tight, and then saw another sight for sore eyes: their other two siblings and their parents.
  • That same night around 11:15 when I heard a tentative “Mom?” It was my son Paul who had stopped over to spend the night on his way to Myrtle Beach where his wife and daughter were waiting.
  • Later that night seeing Paul and Carrie’s heads together as they discussed the merits of various laptops.
  • Watching and listening as the kids opened their gifts on the night of the 23rd. Need I say more about this? Everyone who’s been a child or been around a child can imagine this scenario.
  • The Christmas Eve brunch. I loved having my sibs(two of them) and their families, my Aunt Polly, my cousin Sue & her family, and of course my children here for a fun gathering. Thanks to help from my beautiful daughter Elizabeth, everything came together. We even played Christmas bingo…loved watching Brooke help her father play the game.
  • Following through with a Christmas Eve tradition of seeing a movie; this year it was Sherlock Holmes.
  • Sitting between Otis and Elizabeth in church on Christmas morning as we listened to the messages and the soul-stirring music.
  • Christmas day lunch at my mother-in-law’s house. After all of the feasting we’d been experiencing, we decided on a light menu, subs and cake. Loved that!
  • Monday brunch at Elizabeth’s home in Conway. More yummy food!
  • Having Olivia, Amanda, Paul, and Elizabeth come for a visit in Myrtle Beach and watching Olivia push her new pink grocery cart all over the house. She was wearing her black boots and chatting away. Later we went to Nacho Hippo for a farewell dinner.
  • Shopping for after Christmas deals with Elizabeth the next day. We love Target!
  • Naturally, I couldn’t include everything in the above. Who would want to read all of it anyway?

For some brief, shining moments, we were all together enjoying one another’s presence and remembering Christmases past. On Christmas Eve, I shared a toast with all who were present, and although you weren’t there, you’d like the toast. It was based on the end of a movie, Places in the Heart. My friend Martha had declared its ending to be the best of all movie endings so I had to rent it.

The scene takes inside of a church, and all the pews are populated not only by people who live in the small town but also by those who have “moved on,” either by death or change of location. They’re all partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and although there has been a lot of heartache and pain in the movie, in that final scene, everyone is there…everyone.

What I took from the church scene is that love is the most important and powerful force in the universe and that people who’ve once been a part of your life will always be there with you. You might not be able to see them, but they’re there. Oh and P.S., my mother was right. Christmas is more than a day.

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