One of my favorite Christmas Movies is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. A timeless story about an old, selfish man who, with the help of Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future learns the errors of his ways. Although I enjoyed many versions of it as a child (Mickey, and Muppet versions immediately come to mind), it is a story with themes that continue to resonate with me as an adult. The truths of these themes, along with the depth of all the characters bring such realness to it. But, of course we all know that the story is just that: a complete work of fiction…or so we assume. What if there was some truth to Mr. Dickens’s writing and in times of distress, we actually are visited by ghosts; not in the shape of specters in white robes and chains, but in the form of sudden and intense bouts of nostalgia and maybe even a little regret?
The other day, my family and I were having a great time decorating our tree. Christmas music was in the background and the scent of pine needles wafted through our home. Somewhere between helping my 4 year old hook the ornaments on the tree and watching my 5 month old’s brighten from seeing the lights for the time, I quietly began daydreaming about the holidays of my childhood; and I got a little sad. I couldn’t help but think to myself that there was someone who would have loved more than anything to have witnessed this scene.
I discovered that Santa Claus wasn’t real at a very early age. So for me Santa was never a heavyset, jolly man in a red velvet suit, but rather a sassy elderly woman with a walker that had enough Christmas spirit to turn any scrooge into a tiny Tim.
As the nucleolus of our family, it was an unquestionable fact that my grandma’s house was the central place to celebrate all of milestone events, especially Christmas. As a woman who held the needs of others much higher than her own, she embodied the spirit of Christmas more than anyone I’ve ever known. She used to start her Christmas shopping in august, just to make sure she had a present for any and every one that walked though her doors. Her home around this time of year was always full of food, warmth and laugher. So much so that if I close my eyes and think about it, it feel as real as if it were happening right now.
It’s been 8 years since she passed away and I think about her often, but it’s during this time of year when I miss her most. Now that my grandfather passed last year, all I have left are those wonderful Christmases at their house that plays repeatedly in my mind like a movie projector.
Things are different now. We’re more scattered since I, along with other family members, have moved and settled in different parts of the country. That makes is more difficult to get together, so the Christmas table is noticeably emptier than it used to be. Lost in the memories of Christmas past; I found myself almost wishing things were different…
“Come on. Daddy!”
I suddenly snap back into reality to see my 4 year old tugging my hand.
“We have to put the angel on!”
I smile and hoist him up onto my shoulders so he can add the final touch to our fully decorated tree. As we all take a step back to admire our teamwork, I glance over at my kids and that’s when it hits me:
The torch has been passed.
I’m Santa now. It’s my turn to do everything I can to make sure that their childhood Christmases are as magical for them as my grandmother made them for me. As long as I continue to do that, her memory will live one.
After all, my wife and kids, the ones who were with me right there at that moment, they are my present, and my future.