Memories

goofy-santa-bron-15For years, my childhood stuck with me, clearly–or more so–than many more recent events. I used to play my favorite memories in my head, over and over, as if afraid of losing them.
After the loss of my parents in early adulthood, my theory began to prove unreliable. At first it was my short-term memory, then, as time went on, my mid-to-long term memories. Neurological anomalies have been dismissed as inconclusive, and in general my “brain fog” is attributed to medication or depression. I wonder…
My children’s childhood begins to blur as we progress from day to day, and I startle with grief at times, how much they have grown. How fast. I mourn the moments I’ve lost. Their little quips, their expressions, their milestones. All I have is a general sense of them, everything else is lost in the day to day routine.
Feeling this gnaw at me, I tried extra hard to build better memories for them this Christmas: stories, decorations, lights…and was rewarded on occasion with, “this is the best Christmas ever!” and sometimes nettled by, “Christmas isn’t coming because I didn’t get [a certain present]”
My mind has been wandering backwards lately, trying to find moments in childhood to help me relate. I am appalled how many of my carefully preserved memories are now shrouded in fog, lost to the general sense of things. But I do remember a Christmas or two.
The funny thing is, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. Or Easter. Or Birthdays. The reasons, through my eyes of this moment, are as complex as they are sad. But Christmas and its trappings were exiled from our house. For decoration, we had no more than the deep snow of the northern winter piling up outside our windows, the frost on the panes, the sharp stars glinting overhead. My grandmother, and sometimes one of my aunts, would always send a box of treats. Sometimes they sent presents. It seemed that family had the power to veto our religion’s prohibitions. The boxes of nuts in their shells were no less delightful for that, nor were the mandarin oranges in a crate, each wrapped in a tissue-thin green paper that made them seem somehow extraordinary.
Then there were chocolates. THAT was extraordinary. I remember the game of guessing what was in each one by its shape and the vague pictures on the inside of the box. I remember a doll one year. A snow globe another year, which was barely allowed to stay because of the garish figurine of Santa Claus it held. That snow globe is a story in itself.
So my early memories of Christmas, though tinged with slight regret at the lack of carols, lights, trees, and annual celebrations, still have the scintillating moments of oranges and of nuts being cracked out of their shells by the warmth of the wood stove. Discovering almonds and hazelnuts and walnuts. Hearing the satisfying CRACK of each one being released from the shell, and learning the trick of cracking without crushing.
And perhaps enjoyed something by association: The Nutcracker story or the ballet. I remember that many times: a highlight of the winter season.
My sisters remember my fervent desire to be a ballerina, of which I still have not even a vague recollection, but I do recall being caught up in the magic of the ballet. It was one of the few wonders of the magical that entered my childhood.
When I grew up, I lamented the dearth of fairies in my early years, the diminished wonder that I dimly recall searching for with longing. When I had my own children, I determined to give them that sense of wonder that I missed.
I fall so short with my children. I suppose it’s typical of motherhood that reality falls short of expectation. I wanted to raise them in a home filled with enchantment, feeding them tales to stir their imagination and ignite their little spirits with wonder. I planned to do so much art for them, write so many stories, make so many toys…
I try. But part of me is pragmatic enough to see the cost of too much fanstasy. And yet…those imaginings can so enchant the memories, it sees a shame to let them pass by.
This year, they received gifts from house elves and snow fairies. We watched the Nutcracker, the Grinch, and read those and so many other old tales. We have the Snow Queen, we have folk tales, we have an illuminated Nativity and a fairy village, and as much Light as we can manage. And oranges…
And I hope it’s enough.

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