I have lots of great memories of Christmases past. When Dr. J and I were first married we had this little tiny tree...I mean super tiny. It was maybe less than a foot that my sister had given us. We put all our Christmas gifts in a pile that year and just set the tree on the very top of them. There was the year that I had lost my diamond in my wedding ring and after being gone almost two months for away rotations Dr. J came home for Christmas. He had replaced the diamond in my ring and put it up on the tree with a note filled with journal entries he'd made about me when we first started dating. As a kid I remember specific things I asked for, like the year my parents got me a chemistry set or the train set I asked for even though I was like 13 and it was a totally ridiculous request. I remember singing in nursing homes with my extended family, of eating molasses cookies, and hiding from my younger siblings and my younger cousins with my cousin Brooke while we listened to our mom's and aunts talk about dating, and marriage, and motherhood. I remember Christmases in the hospital as well. It seemed like there were three years in a row when Grandpa Burr was having heart problems and then there was the year Cheetah was born, when I only got to spend an hour with her on Christmas day because Dr. J was working the night shift at the children's hospital which was a 5-7 shift both Christmas Eve and Christmas. I remember doing twelve days of Christmas with my siblings and the excitement of doorbell ditching. Being a parent has heightened the joy for me. The excitement of my children when they walk down the stairs and see the tree lit up is priceless. Christmas to children is magic and that makes me think of one of my best Christmas Memories...Christmas in the Trailer.
After my parents got divorced my mom was still going to school to finish her teaching degree and student teaching. It was a particularly rough time for our family. Hardly any money was coming in and my mom was pretty much doing school and raising four kids on her own. Somehow she was clued in to a job/housing opportunity. There was this little Hispanic lady named Josie who lived on quite a bit of land. It was off a big street but the lot was exceptionally deep and so your sort of felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. The lot had a tiny house on it that Josie had lived in almost all of her married life. It had tons of pomegranate and nut trees. It had a giant chicken coop with chickens running everywhere and at the back the lot was a tiny trailer. Josie was in the early stages of dementia but she refused to leave her house and so her son worked out a deal with mom. We could rent the trailer for something like a $100 a month if we kept an eye on Josie. Living on that land resulted in some of the best childhood memories I have and Christmas was no exception.
That year we all slept in the living room together in a big ball of mattresses, blankets, and pillows, and some time around one in the morning our mother woke us up to open presents. I have zero memory of what I got. All I can remember is the fun and the laughing, and being so happy I felt I was just going to float away. And here is where the magic of Christmas comes into play. My mom told me years later that trailer was a dump. There were actually holes in the floor where bugs could get in and the trailer had no heat at all. Even though we lived in Arizona it could get pretty chilly at night and that particular night was close to freezing. My father had brought a little heater by but it could only reach one room so my mother put it in the living room and dragged all our sleeping gear in there so we could use each other's body heat to stay warm. All the kids fell asleep quickly and then she put our meager gifts out under the tree. It was so cold though that she couldn't sleep and so after letting us sleep just a little longer she finally woke us up because she hoped that if we were moving around we'd stay warmer. It makes me laugh so hard I cry. It had to have been a horrible Christmas for her, newly divorced, alone with four children, poor while trying desperate hard to finish school, literally worried her children were going to freeze to death, and yet in my memory it was pure magic. The magic of Christmas is love, a love so strong that a mother can wrap her children so protectively in her own love that what must have been one of the hardest days of her own life is remembered by her child as one of the most fun Christmases she ever had.