I discovered something about myself a few years ago–I greatly prefer books and movies that bring me peace and joy. Yes, every good story needs conflict, but maybe not so much that my heart rate rises and my shoulders knot-up.
So, while I am a proud English major and degree holder, have a penchant for solid writing skills, and enjoy a passion for classical literature, I also have this love-thing happening with the Hallmark Channel, which might seem an unlikely juxtaposition. It’s kinda funny to admit how much I love Hallmark movies because the plots are predictable, to say the least.
But then, so are Jane Austen novels. And I love, love, LOVE Jane Austen.
As I’ve tried to work out this apparent dichotomy in myself–part book and movie snob, part Hallmark Channel fan–I realize that my love of historical fiction and predictable love stories that are clean and wholesome have much more to do with my need to de-stress than my need for complex plot structures.
All that to say–it’s Christmas on Hallmark, so guess what I’ve been watching!
While decking the halls with my Christmas trinkets and trimmings this past weekend, Hallmark played in the background the whole time. I loved how the holiday music, snowy scenes, and general relationship redemptions added to my decorating experience. And, periodically, my oldest son would walk through to see how the decorating was going and ask, “Are they in love yet?” Every. Time.
And we’d laugh.
But the last time he came through, he didn’t comment on my movie selection. Instead, this 26-year-old man sentimentally paused at each shelf and said, “Mom, I always forget how much STUFF you have.” I looked up to see if he was rolling his eyes. To my pleasure, he was smiling, so I shrugged sheepishly.
“Mom, it’s just so FESTIVE!”
Words to fill a mama’s soul.
I know for some of my friends, Christmas decorating feels like a chore. And though every year as I look at all the plastic containers coming out of the attic and think, “This will be the year I’ll cut back. I won’t put everything out,” every year the same thing happens–it all gets put out.
And that’s because as I pull out each Santa, every angel, and all the snowmen, I start remembering…
I remember the student who gave me the beautiful wooden Christmas tree, which takes me back to another season of life when I was teaching and only had one child. A time when each Christmas held new excitement as I saw the holiday unfold through the eyes of my firstborn.
I remember putting up my own, quite small, Christmas tree in my childhood bedroom as I place my beautiful, fragile Christmas bell on my angel shelf. Oh, how I loved listening to my dad’s Bing Crosby Christmas album as I decorated my room as a girl.
I remember caroling with all my Dad’s family as I pull out the old book of Christmas songs, setting it high on a shelf so that I’ll see it all season long and recall the warm feelings of belonging I had those Christmases.
I remember my sweet grandma as I set up our kid-friendly nativity scene with her hand-painted Christmas night scene in the background, the star shining brightly in a deep sapphire-blue desert sky. I can picture her holding the fine-tipped paint brush dipped in black paint as she made the wisemen come to life on the tiny canvas.
I remember my mother-in-law–the decorator extraordinaire–as I unwrap another candle she bought for me at an after-Christmas sale years ago. And, because she inspired much creativity in me, I wonder if she’d like some of the shelves I’ve decked-out in color-coordinated themes.
I remember all the nights of reading bedtime stories to my three little boys as I set out the basket of childhood Christmas books, laughing out loud at the Mooseltoe cover, tearing-up as I realize how much I miss those days of old.
I remember all the years of dancing in The Nutcracker as I set my original nutcracker in his position of honor on the mantle, his handle held together with an oxidized paperclip. Tchaikovsky’s music floods my thoughts, and I swear I can smell the lamb’s wool and rosin of the backstage ballet. I’m like a kid again, feeling Clara’s excitement of discovering the Land of the Sweets and dancing with sugar plum fairies.
I remember all the laughs shared with the four men in my family as I set out my Buddy the Elf canvas–The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. And I find myself looking forward to our annual tradition of popping in the Elf DVD as we hang each of our ornaments on the tree.
So, while I had my firstborn with me amidst all the tissue paper and Christmas collections, I asked him what his favorite Christmas memory was, and he didn’t hesitate in his response. He’d loved the Christmas at the cabin–the year we went out as an extended family to buy and decorate a real tree, roasted marshmallows in the fireplace, and woke up to find Santa’s gifts for all the boys, including his little cousin, on Christmas morning.
His memory jogged one of my own, and I asked if he remembered that our last Christmas with his Meemaw had also been at the cabin. We both quietly reflected on how we didn’t know at the time it would be our last Christmas with her. And we treasured the memory even more deeply.
And I realize one of the reasons I love adorning my house each year with all my decorations is because each bauble, candle, and knickknack is a treasure trove of memories. And there’s not another time of year where I allow myself the gift of time to sit in the remembering.
It fills me.
It cheers me.
And, yes, sometimes it saddens me.
But as one of “my” Hallmark movies reminded me the other night–allowing ourselves to remember keeps us close to those we’ve loved and lost. When we keep our traditions or tell stories or pull out the decorations, we might hurt a bit in the remembering, but healing happens there. And, the best part is–we keep their memory alive and with us.
So, no matter where you find yourself this Christmas–excited with all the new in this season of life or grieving the loss of a dear one–I pray you’ll be intentional to allow yourself to do two things: create new memories and reflect on the good memories of the past. Because, as I’m discovering, memories shape us and they help us to keep our loved ones close.
There’s power in the remembering!
Still decorating, Shelley Johnson