Tuesday, December 23, 2014


While every Christmas is a joy to me, over the years, a few of them have held moments so special, that each season I dust off my memories to replay them in my heart.  They conjure up feelings of love, warmth and family, and with them, the knowledge that on that particular Christmas, the real spirit of the season was not lost in all the wrappings and trimmings. It is what we chase after each year in our efforts to replicate the magic, but it is like trying to catch the wind; it happens when it will, graces your life for a few glorious moments, and then vanishes as quickly as it came. The only constant in each of the moments, is that family always played a part in them, and, that no matter how they unfolded, the passing of the years does nothing to diminish the happiness that revisiting them brings me.
The oldest one is of a Christmas when I was about ten years old, when my mother had given my brothers some sort of gyroscopes as gifts.  While I can't remember their exact words upon receiving them, I CAN remember the laughter that followed. While it may not have been the response she had anticipated, their reactions were priceless, and, best of all, she had also purchased a tape recorder for the family that year, and, unbeknownst to us, placed it under the couch to record the evening's gift-giving.  We replayed the moment over and over, and although sadly, the tape was lost over the years, the memory of the laughter never has been.
Another one is of Christmas shopping with my brother Martin, when I was about 20.  I can't even remember who or what we were shopping for, but I vividly recall that it involved going to MANY stores and passing the MANY Salvation Army bell-ringers that stood outside of them. Whatever gift we were in search of kept eluding us that year and I remember practically running after my brother to keep up with his quick pace. The only time I could pause to catch my breath was as my brother would stop to place a donation in each kettle and then wait for me to do the same.  By the time we passed the fourth bell-ringer though, I felt I had met my donation-giving quota, so I started to walk by without making one.  My brother, however, did not follow.  
"You didn't put any money in the pot." He said to me. 
"I know," I answered.  "I already made a donation at the last three."
His brow furrowed for a second, as he reached into his pocket and made one for me, and then, when out of earshot of the bell-ringer, he stated simply, but firmly, "Never pass a bell-ringer without making a donation."
While my brother might not even remember that moment, I have never forgotten it; nor have I ever passed a bell-ringer again without making a donation. That moment lived on as I would retell it to my daughters as they grew up, and proved particularly costly to Holly and Gina.  They both worked at Kmart while in high school and they had to pass a bell-ringer every day that they went to work. I remember they asked if being employed at a store exempted them from giving and I answered simply with a furrowed brow.
Other moments come to mind, as well.  Like the year that I went shopping with my sister Janet, for example, and helped her as she purchased over 100 packages of socks to be passed out at the dinner for the homeless that she facilitated each year.  A man inquired as to why we were pushing carts that were literally, overflowing with socks, and then, upon hearing the story, made a sizable, impromptu donation because he wanted to be a part of it. The spirit of Christmas came that year, not from what one took out of a shopping cart, but rather, by what one put into it. 
This year, I am happy to say, I had such a moment already.  Again, it came unexpectedly, but instantly, I recognized its beauty. Our daughter Gina is giving us a family portrait this year for Christmas, and this past Saturday, we gathered together to have our photos taken.  My husband had undergone surgery on his hand just two days before and I was worried a little, as to how cooperative he would be about dressing up for an outdoor photo shoot when it was 30 degrees outside.  Early in the day I spoke to him about how much effort Gina had put into the project.  She had gone to great lengths to create the perfect setting by securing permission for a special location at Stony Creek to be opened for us, as well as loading up the van with a wicker couch and chair to be used as props. 
"Gina went to a lot of trouble to do this, Dave, so make sure to be appreciative, okay?"  I said to him.
"Why do we have to have such weird children, Amy?" He answered.
"That is exactly the type of thing I am talking about, Dave." I said with a laugh. 
"I mean creative."  He said.  "Why do we have to have such "creative" children?"
I am happy to say that Dave's behavior exceeded my expectations, and despite the cold weather, an aching hand and the hectic pace needed to unload a van filled with furniture onto a tree-lined dirt road at Stony Creek, he was wonderful.  I have yet to see all the photos, from which we will choose the two favorites for our canvas, but the girls sent me one, and in it I saw that we had captured another one of those magical Christmas memories.  Each time I look at it I can hear the sound of my daughters' laughter, as well as Dave's commentary, muttered through gritted teeth he thought mimicked a smile, as he inquired as to how much longer he would need to be outside without a coat on.  Each viewing makes me smile anew. It is the Spirit of Christmas; blowing through a tree-lined, dirt road and resting upon each of our shoulders for one precious moment... caught on film.  (Special thanks to Aaron Smith for capturing it.)  Blessings, Amycita xoxoxo