There’s this memory that sort of hovers over me every year. It floats in sometime after Thanksgiving, and grows increasingly strong until Christmas morning when it roars past me like a freight train.
Sometimes I wish I could catch the memory, maybe climb back into it, and wrap myself up in the warmth of that moment.
It was Christmas, and I was young. My brother and I burrowed beneath blankets upstairs as the winters winds of Wisconsin knocked at the window panes. It was the middle of the night, not even close to being a reasonable time to wake our parents. The clock by my bedside said 3:30. We decided to wait until 4:00 to go downstairs.
Because, obviously, 4:00 is more than reasonable. Ask my mom. She loved getting up that early.
Brett slept on the floor by my bed, and on this night (morning? No…definitely night), I was reading Ziggy to him by flashlight. I’d read the words, then show him the pictures, and we’d both snicker because, for whatever reason, we found Ziggy hilarious.
It’s very tactile, this memory of mine. I remember the darkness that wrapped around our house, the way the windows rattled now and then with the wind. I remember my toes being cold, and not really wanting to get out of bed, but so longing to see what treasures waited for us under the tree.
I remember being happy and excited. I remember feeling both cold and warm, or…maybe it’s just the memory that makes me feel warm?
Mostly I remember feeling completely at peace.
The thing about Christmas is it tends to get under your skin. There’s something about the holiday season that wraps all tight around your heart, forcing you to recall short snippets of time, replaying them like movie reels in your mind.
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I love that Christmas memory. I don’t remember the gifts we received that year. I just remember being happy in my bed, giggling with my brother, anticipating the day to come.
There’s another Christmas memory that has loped it’s way into the reel in recent years. This one, too, has been pressing down on me for the last few days, reminding me that I’m not a kid anymore, but that Christmas can still hold a particular brand of magic.
It was three years ago that I sent off our completed dossier to Russia. I’d had eleventy frillion documents tracked down, signed, notarized, and copied, and I sent the stack of paperwork as thick as my arm off with a thrill in my heart.
And the week before Christmas it all sort of unraveled. Whispers of a Russian ban on American adoptions made their way into my heart, and began to squeeze tight.
It was Christmas night, and I was up all alone. The children were in bed, the events of the day having pushed them into slumber swiftly and mercifully. Lee was asleep, too, and so I sat alone.
I curled up in front of the tree, all lit and glittery with memories old and new, and I sipped my hot tea. I thought of a little girl far away, alone and waiting for a family to choose her, and I prayed the prayer that only a mother can pray when she feels powerless to help her child.
I’m not one to claim to have heard the voice of God often. I don’t toss that idea around lightly. But on this still night, I heard the word Wait.
In this memory that keeps flitting around my subconscious, I hear the voice audibly. I don’t believe it was quite so clear that particular night, but I do remember growing still in spirit as the message washed through me.
Tonight, we brought home our Christmas tree, and while Michael Buble´ crooned Jingle Bells in the background, we pulled out the lights and ornaments, and we dressed the spruce in our living room.
“Put the breakable ornaments up a little higher so Annika can’t get them,” I told the big kids, and they did. And all the while, Annika stood in the middle of the carpet, her eyes dancing with delight at the wonder of it all.
Three years ago last week, I put our dossier in the mail to Russia. It’s been a long wait, but tonight I felt a warmth spread quick through my soul. It’s the same feeling I get when I think of that Christmas morning in my bed with a flashlight, and a Ziggy book.
Peace. Joy. Anticipation.
The thing about Christmas is there’s always room for one more memory – another snippet to add to the reel.
And it is magic.
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