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The Power of Memory

Growing up, Christmas was such a huge deal. My parents would endure endless playing of Christmas albums (Sesame Street being our favourite) as well as the hyper-activity that went along with the music. Seriously, I’m surprised our house did not collapse from our bouncing off of the walls. Throughout December, excitement would continue to mount until it reached its peak, which lasted for the twelve hours between 8 P.M. on Christmas Eve and 8 A.M. on Christmas morning. A lot of the time, I would not be able to sleep – I was so excited.

There were times when I would find myself awake after midnight; I don’t even remember if I had slept or not. Since I was fully awake and could not get back to sleep, I would silently wander over to the Christmas tree and examine the presents that Santa brought for me. Sometimes I could guess what was in them; other times I could not. Inevitably I would find out in the morning when we woke our parents up and badgered them until we could open our gifts. They would usually acquiesce, allowing us to check out our stockings while dad made breakfast; after breakfast the main event would begin.

There were years when I got exactly what I wanted; there were others when I got something unexpected. The shadow of disappointment that would fall across my face in those cases probably didn’t actually last very long seeing as I usually got something cool anyway. For the most part, I don’t think my asks were very much as the years progressed. Sure, sometimes I am pretty sure I would go overboard in my letters to Santa; but I honestly never expected him to get everything on the list.

Then, something happened. Christmas seemed to fall by the wayside – the magic gone. I can’t remember exactly when it was; but it happened – and not just to me, but to everyone! People talk about Christmas becoming more and more commercial every year, which is a fair statement. But Christmas seems to have become more and more about logistics and hurried planning. I don’t know if I like that.

Last week, I went to Walmart to pick up a filter for one of our humidifiers and ended up walking through the Holiday section. A Christmas song played over the speaker system (funny enough, I can’t recall which one it was) as I picked up an ornament that resembled one from years gone by; and my mind was overwhelmed with memories of our parents’ house in Brampton. I remembered our artificial tree and all of the gaudy decorations we used to hang on it; I remember how happy we were, focused on the ornaments and the coloured lights. We would play with the tinsel and spray artificial snow all over the tree while Christmas tunes played in the background over the speakers. We would talk about Santa Claus and how he probably had a skeleton key that worked in all of the doors for every house, because not every chimney on every house was a real one.

I don’t remember how long I stood there in that aisle; when I snapped back to the present I had a few tears slowly rappelling down my face. I wiped the emotional evidence from my cheeks and made my way over to the ornaments, where I promptly grabbed a few for Little J’s tree. I realized that she is just like I used to be: she still believes in the magic of Christmas; she is, at this point, unaffected by any of the nonsense that we find ourselves mired in during the holidays.

We spend our lives dealing with all kinds of crap; we plan and we try and we fail and we despair; but we don’t spend enough time really enjoying the wins. The pessimism of our species creeps into the way we celebrate things – even if we are happy during those times, I wonder exactly how much happier we would be if we just left the baggage behind, even if it is just for a short while? I realized (in Walmart of all places), that the magic of the holidays never really went anywhere; it just changed a little. Instead of being dazzled by it, I get to make my own!

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