Best Christmases Ever

What was your best Christmas? We can probably each name several that are in our top 10 (if you're old enough, able enough, to remember 10 Christmases). But for us who are middle age or older with adult kids, and probably grandkids, we tend to put Christmases into different categories and in each category we have a favorite.

Let me elaborate.

There are the Christmases of our childhood. For most of us, those memories are filled with images of toys and or candy and piles of wrapping paper and lights and all those magical things we associate with Christmas morning.

Then there are the Christmases of our early adult life. From about the age of 16 (or whenever you got your license to drive) until you're married with children. These Christmases are the ones you brought your boyfriend/girlfriend to meet your parents, or you went to his/her house to meet their parents. Or you skipped visiting any relatives to be with each other. Or maybe you were alone and you were the not-quite adult enough person at the dinner table where everyone else was talking about married life and children. Or you were totally alone, spending Christmas in an small apartment or dorm watching old movies on TV. Maybe you had to work.

Then there are the Christmases of you later adult life. You're married with kids, and suddenly the toys and candy and piles of wrapping paper and lights and other magical things are back, only you are seeing it from the other side, as if you've passed through the looking glass and you are seeing yourself in the faces of your children.

When you are thinking and talking about your favorite Christmas, you can't really place one from one category over another from a different category. It's as if each category represents an actual different holiday and there is no way to compare them.

So I'm going to share my top three Christmases. One from each category. Please, join in the discussion in the comments.

My favorite Childhood Christmas

I was a child in the '70s and '80s. The things I remember about Christmas are Star Wars toys, dinner at Grandma and Grandpas, and sometimes getting in trouble sliding down the stairs at their house.

Being in my mid-40s now, and generally having memory problems because of my neurological issues, a lot of those Christmases kind of blur together into one big warm fuzzy. My mom always made sure that whatever was going on, Christmas was awesome. And most of the memories I have of my grandparents house are Christmas memories. Fire burning, decorated live tree (that I was allergic to and couldn't be close to for very long), grandpa running his movie camera with the big lights, driving home late afternoon full of turkey and potatoes and pie, drifting to sleep as the sun goes down in the back of the car...

Anyway, what I'm saying is that my favorite Christmas may not be an actual Christmas that happened but rather an amalgam of a few different Christmases that  have become befuddled in my head. So here goes.

It was Christmas even night. The kids at our little village United Methodist church always put on the Christmas play. Most years I was a wise man or a shepherd, dressed in a bathrobe with some itchy piece of cloth on my head. If I ever had a speaking part, I don't remember. This particular year was like the others, all of us kids on the stage trying to not fidget and failing miserably. But what I remember is that after the play all the kids lined up along the walls of the church with lit candles as all other lights were put out. When the chapel was lit only by candles and the kids were in place, everyone sang Silent Night to end the evening. Afterwards, we'd have a little party for the kids in the basement. Santa always stopped by our Church before going on his toy-delivery to make sure each of us got some special attention from him. He'd always have little gifts for us, usually a little plastic snow globe of the manger scene and peanuts, still in their shells, in a brown paper sack.

As we were leaving the church, they would ring the bell. This was back in the day what churches still had bells and were allowed to ring them. When I was littler, I thought they were signalling the reindeer to come pick up Santa. When I got older I learned it was to welcome the newborn King.

Most Christmases we'd be allowed to open one present Christmas eve night before we went to bed. I don't really have a clear memory of any of these presents, but I do remember the feeling of kind of "getting a fix" so that it was easier to sleep through the night. But also of simultaneously feeding the addiction, making me want more, to skip the sleeping part and go right to the morning after Santa came to our house.

My brother and I shared a room until we were in our teens. After the present we'd get our pajamas on and crawl into our bunks, him on the bottom, me on top. We'd sometimes talk, usually argue, in whispering tones about the presents we just opened and strain our ears to listen for hooves on the roof and jingling sleigh bells.

The house we lived in didn't have a fireplace so we were convinced that Santa had to get down off the roof somehow so he could come through the front door. Our door, especially the screen door, made a very particular sound whenever it was opened that could be heard anywhere in the house. I never asked,  but I'm pretty sure that 'Santa' sometimes made a big production of opening the door after my brother and I were in bed just to strike a little fear into our hearts because we were still awake when he came!

I was a Star Wars geek when I was a kid. The original came out when I was 9, and for the next three or four years (and at least a little every year since then), every Christmas was a Star Wars Christmas. Santa and my parents set me up good. When my collection was complete (or at least as complete as it would get) I had just about everything. I even had a couple of rare and collectible figures. Did I keep these in their packages and mint condition? Heck no! I played with them! I played the CRAP out of them!

This year that stands out the most because this is the year I got the Death Star play set. This thing was freaking awesome. It was built like a carved out section of the sphere, but it had everything. It had the garbage masher, complete with foam garbage and rubber monster, it had the control room, it had an elevator, it had the retracting bridge Luke and Leia had to swing across, it even had a photon cannon that an X-Wing could shoot at and make explode!

I don't remember much else about that Christmas, I don't remember going to the grandparents that year, though I know we did, or much else. There is one thing that stands out even more than the Death Star as my favorite Christmas memory. I'm not even sure it happened on that day, but it's still my best childhood memory.

I don't talk a lot about my father these days. In all honesty, he was never really part of my life. When we were kids he always worked nights and spent his weekends in the garage. He drank a lot. We could get into a whole discussion about how he was working hard to provide for us and all that, but that's not what I want to discuss here. My point is, I only have a couple of memories of doing something just me and my father. And this is one.

I was playing with my Death Star on the living room rug. My dad was watching something on TV and just kind of napping in the chair. Pretty sure he wasn't paying much attention to me. I was sitting there, making my pew-pew sounds and re-enacting the dialog from the movie, but with my own rewrites. In my story on this day, the aliens from the Cantina scene had invaded the Death Star and the troopers had to fight them off. Somehow, Hammerhead made it all the way to the cannon and Vader was forced to push him down the elevator shaft.

From the chair I heard my dad laugh. Just a chuckle. But it was then I realized he was actually paying attention to me and not the TV. As I sat there and played for a while longer, he would make an occasional small suggestion. He didn't get down on the floor and play with me, but he played with me in his own way. Best playtime ever.

Favorite Young Adult Christmas

I wasn't on my own for very long when I went off to college, if you can call college being "on your own". It took me less than 2 months to find the girl of my dreams and fall madly, hopelessly in love. I've spent 25 Christmases with her (well, including this upcoming Christmas) and never want to have one without her.

But our first Christmas together is probably the most memorable.

We'd only been dating about 2 months. Technically we were already engaged (I proposed to her after 10 days), and our wedding would be in December the next year. We were together all the time at school and there was no way we were going to be separated over the holiday break.

So I took her to my family Christmas functions and I went to hers.

We were so stupid in those days. All we wanted to each other, every minute of every hour. I clung to her like a static charged sock just out of the dryer. I was awkward, nerdy, needy, and just downright creepy. Yes, creepy.

What stands out most this Christmas was the reception I got from Anna's grandfathers. We spent Christmas eve night at one of her grandparents house, with everyone on that side of the family, then Christmas day at the other grandparents house, with everyone on THAT side of the family. And I mean everyone. Christmases at my grandparents house were big, but our family wasn't nearly as big as either side of Anna's.

I was just kind of lost in the crowd. Between cousins and their spouses/boyfriends and aunts and uncles with all their kids and everything going on, I fully expected to just be a fly on the wall at both gatherings, and I was 100% OK with that. I'm not good around people, I just don't function well in social settings, and I was especially bad at it when I was 19. I was totally cool with just leaning against the wall and staying out of the way.

But at both gatherings, Anna's grandfathers, amidst all the craziness going on at their houses, not only sought me out to talk to me, but went above and beyond to make me feel like part of the family. All they really did was talk to me like an adult, something only my own grandfather had done before now.

And they made me participate. For example, on the Waite side of the family, Santa always filled special stockings for all the grandkids and distributing and opening those stockings was a highlight of the day. When the time came, I thought I could just get out of the way and let the cousins have their fun. But no. Santa had a stocking for me too! It was just filled with candy and cookies from the kitchen, but Santa remembered me at their house.

Both Anna's grandfather's are gone now, but they always made me feel like I had always been a part of their families and not just a guy who married one of the girls.

Favorite Parenthood Christmas

I hesitate to put anything in this section, since I will always be a parent and I have many many more years (hopefully) ahead of me to acquire Christmas memories to share with my adult kids and grandkids and (God willing) great grandkids.

But the ball is already rolling, so I may as well finish this blog post with a bang. (or at least finish it!)

While there are many great stories of Christmases as my older kids growing up, and really cute stories of my younger kids just a short while ago, I'm going to have to go with Christmas 2007.

It was our first year that we celebrated Christmas in a house of our own. We went totally insane with the decorations. Have you seen the movie Elf? It was like that, paper snow flakes everywhere, lights like crazy, it was awesome.

Honestly, there's nothing super spectacular that stood out that year, no disasters or anything like that. Just the complete relaxed happy feeling of spending a Christmas in the first place we could truly call our own.  (Yes, it was also Miss R's first Christmas and Mr. L was so painfully cute playing with the nativity set under the tree, and there are tons of great memories about that year, but no gift beats truly being home, with your kids, for the holiday.)

And it's one of the more relaxed holiday's we've had. Previously, I had always worked in retail and while I had the day off, I always had to be in early the next day for returns. Soon after that year, our eldest would be off getting married and having her own family, the next two would also graduate and be in college. My wife would also go back to school. So no Christmas since has been quite as relaxed and laid back as that one. We're hoping to try to recapture that this year, as we have every year since, but the realities and stresses of life and school and kids just doesn't seem to want to cut us a break.


So there they are. My favorite Christmases. What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?