Thursday, December 14, 2006

Memories of Christmas past

Perhaps it was our reading of Dickens' which once again has me thinking of previous Christmas seasons. It may have been the ponderings which occur when one goes through years of memories as I had to do yesterday. Whatever it was that sparked some of them, I have enjoyed a walk down memory lane.

I was once again remembering the most magical of Christmas evenings, one I knew when I was living it that it would long be impressed in my memory. I mentioned it before, the evening of Christmas shopping in downtown Holland, Michigan. It looked for all the world like I was in one of those snow globes that had been shaken and the snow was falling softly on the quaint street.

Lake effect snow has the tendency toward large flakes that do not fall upon you but they literally seem to dance through the air and tease you until they land on coat collars, mittens, and hats. Quite lovely when one is walking past Christmas lights and Holiday displays "downtown". Not so lovely when one has to drive home but that is another story...

I have always enjoyed finding the perfect Christmas gift for loved ones. Quite often, their gift has been purchased long before the Season is upon us when I came upon that "just right" gift during the year. I always kept my ears open to a comment made, perhaps just in passing, that would indicate a longed for item within my budget.

That evening my husband and I had driven downtown together and then parted to do our separate shopping. My daughter was at the age where I knew a lovely sweater would be in order, definitely a book or two from Pooh's Corner and I'm certain there was a stop for a few more stocking stuffers. I remember the evening being surrounded by red, green, and blue Christmas lights; the softer white of corner street lamps; the displays in store windows created to draw one into the warmth behind doors; cobblestone streets; laughter all around...yes, sometimes there are glimpses of Heaven on this Earth and Goodwill toward Mankind. Once in awhile, we are blessed with such evenings as this.

Another memory is one I wasn't even a part of when it happened. On one side of my refrigerator, next to kitchen cabinets and my small microwave, there is just enough room to tape some precious pictures (my father in his younger days, a late 1960s photo of my mother and I taken at one of those booths which cost 25cents, a birthday card sent from my daughter, a picture taken of my son and his sister at Christmas when he was a baby, index card on which is taped a tag from a Christmas present with the words For: Snoop From Deviousness and Cloaker.

The two of them had driven to Sagatuck (in near blizzard conditions I later learned!) to purchase a gift certificate for me at my favorite gourmet shop. That was the tag on the package which held the gift. Long after the gift I purchased with the certificate was gone (broken in a move if I remember), I have that tag which I love far more than even the gift. For it brings memories of the fun those two had in shopping for my presents and memories that Dad and Daughter brought to this Mom. Not to mention that I may have forgotten for years I was Snoop and they were Deviousness and Cloaker. (I refuse to answer how I got the nickname of Snoop.)

Those are the true memories of Christmas. We may remember certain gifts (as I remember a special doll as a child) but mostly we remember the people. As with these memories, they bring great joy. Other memories bring pain and sadness of loved ones gone or Christmas seasons spent alone.

I wonder at times if that is not the reason He has made Christmas. We know December 25th was probably not the date of His birth but that's not the only thing Christmas is about. It's about Light in Darkness and it doesn't get a lot darker than late December. Advent is the time of remembering why He came and what He did for us on Easter. Remembering seems to come easier this time of year. Life is a mixture of good and bad but all are to draw our thoughts toward Him.


Susan said...

I have been reading your blog for quite some time and I thought you might enjoy this little story - you can read it online, but it is from the 1850s, so I don’t think it’s in print anymore. This story is mentioned by Robert E. Lee’s daughter, Agnes - in her diary called "Growing up in the 1850s". Her grandmother had given her a copy of this story for Christmas in 1852. She also mentions a gift of “The Distant Hills”, which I’ll look up next. She also received a “portmonaie” which I also have to Google.

Susan said...


Sorry - the web address didn't print right in my previous post.

Susan said...

OK - I found the book "The Distant Hills" by Rev. William Adams from about 1849. I'm assuming that's the one Agnes Lee refers to. It is an allegory. He also wrote another one entitled, "The Shadow of the Cross - an Allegory". Here is all the info I found, if you are interested:

Plate from “Sacred Allegories” Christ at the door of the heart in the above web address

Books given by Florence Nightengale for museum – “Sacred Allegories” – a collection of all Rev. William Adam’s stories, including “The Distant Hills” and “The Shadow of the Cross”:

You can read the book “Sacred Allegories” online here:

The above book also contains a biography of the author at the very beginning. It is a scan of an old book, so it is quite interesting to view AND to read.

Also - a portmonaie is a french word for money carrier:

Brenda said...

Thank you, Susan! I am looking forward to reading this.

Susan said...

In my first comment I forgot to mention that the story the Agnes received for Christmas and that I was referring to was "Angel Over My Right Shoulder". The diary of Robert E. Lee's daughter Agnes (called "Growing Up In The 1850's")has me all caught up in the history of the whole family and the events of their lives. Agnes' grandfather was George Washington's adopted grandson (and George Washington's wife's natural grandson). I skimmed the end of the diary. The first part of it is Agnes' reminiscences from age 12 to about 17 or 18, I think. After that she didn't write in it anymore. Agnes died at age 32 of Typhoid. After her death, her sister Mildred must have found the diary and continued writing in it -about Agnes, what had happened to the family - and heartbreakingly, she visited Arlington, their beloved home, after the war. It had been commandeered by the US Gov't as gov't property, to be used as a cemetary and memorial. No one compensated the Lees - and they had no say in the matter. Later, one of the descendants took the Gov't to court and $ compensation was finally awarded, but the land that Agnes' grandfather had inherited from G. Washington and had deeded in his will to his descendants in perpetuity - was forever gone to the Lees. Mildred writes about the beloved home that she and Agnes had loved - how all the graves now take the place of the gardens where she played as a child, where her beloved mother kept beautiful roses - and friends came just to admire the garden. It's very sad to read - and makes me think of today's Eminent Domain law - at least people get some compensation by law....the Lee's had to sue for it.