Gold Coins and Christmas Memories {life lately 12.13.15}


Last week Mackenzie came home from school with a small bag of chocolate coins. She showed them off in the car as we drove home from school.

"I won these", she said proudly, holding them above her head.

"How'd you do that?", asked Caitlin as she eyed her sister's prize.

"I won at Dreidel", Mackenzie announced matter of fact.

"Wow, Mac, that's awesome", I replied. "How do you play Dreidel? I don't think I've ever played".

"It's easy. You spin the Dreidel and whatever it stops on that's what you do. When I spun, it said take all, so that's what I did".

I'm sure Dreidel isn't that easy, I'm sure there are other rules, but to my five year old, it was as easy as "take all". Later that day, as I made dinner, I thought about Mac and her Dreidel. I wondered how much she would remember about this day in kindergarten. Would she always remember that time she won at Dreidel? Would she grow up and look at chocolate coins and have a soft spot in her heart about the time she "took all"? Would she one day tell her own children her Dreidel story as they shopped for Christmas presents and found little mesh bags of chocolate coins?

I can only hope. I hope that my girls make great Christmas memories as our life happens around us. Because we have yet to walk the lights this year. We still haven't made sugar cookies. We didn't make it to the Nutcracker. With such pressure to "make memories", what happens when you just let those mundane and simple acts of the season become memories?

My own Christmas memories run deep. They are tactile, like velveteen and green felt cut into the shapes of trees remind me of Christmas dance performances of yesteryear. How red grosgrain ribbon will forever remind me of perfectly decorated gift boxes that we received from our dance company director. My Christmas memories are fragrant. They smell like my mother's famous chocolate cake and sugar cookie frosting. They smell like McDonald's Happy Meals since we spent many a Christmas on the road to dance performances and late night Christmas shopping adventures. So many dinners eaten on the road with my mother after work as we drove to our next stop. They smell like coffee and tamales in my grandmother's kitchen. My Christmas memories have flavor, they taste like Coca-Cola classic on ice,peppermint candy canes, the Nestle Tollhouse Cookies that I ate too many of the year I went with a school friend to her church choir performance. So many memories that can seem forgotten under all the everyday monotony. Until you unwrap a chocolate coin. Until you walk into your mother's house and smell the Christmas cake baking.

It's easy for me to get wrapped up in making memories. Making sure we make those Pinterstly perfect crafts. Making sure we take the complicated desserts to the class parties. I get wrapped up in what is going to go under the tree, trying to out do myself (and Santa) year after year. I worry so much about what we will remember about this Christmas. Will these memories stand the test of time? And will it even matter? At thirty seven, I can say that I've had happy Christmases, but I can't tell you exactly what I got every year. I know that there was a Victorian Doll House that was magical. There was the Barbie Camper and the Strawberry Shortcake Villa. One year there was a Game Boy, and one year there was a pair of Bongo Jeans that I was dying over. Still, despite all those gifts, the nights I spent shopping with my mom in search of the perfect gift for her mom stick out the most. The two of us sweaty and irritable, only taking a time out for a coke and a cookie in the food court are what cue my happy memories. The year I baked the famous chocolate cake and forgot the baking soda is now a fond memory, even if it wasn't then. I was probably twelve at the time and so embarrassed I cried a little, all while my Aunt Marilyn took bite after bite trying to convince me that while the cake was flat as a pancake, it still tasted good. To this day, I can still hear her say, "It's good Megs, see".

Some of my memories are distorted, by age and failing memory. I don't remember a lot about the Christmas when I was eight, but I do remember best friends, Melanie and Sandy. They received a package from their grandma who lived in Germany. It was an entire box of chocolates, and I'm not kidding when I say, I've never tasted another thing as heavenly as those German chocolates. They were kind enough to give me an egg, wrapped in brightly colored foil. It seemed odd, chocolate eggs at Christmas, but once unwrapped, the real surprise was inside. Under a light robe of chocolate was a plastic egg, and inside the egg was a toy. A small car, a tiny figure of a doll or animal, even a pencil. I don't remember what I got, but I remember being delighted. It seemed magical and foreign an even exotic. We didn't have cool things like that here in America. Not that I had seen at eight years old.

Then there are the memories that have become sweeter over time, Like the year I was eighteen, and my family our first Christmas away from home. We had just recently moved and made Fresno our new home, but wanting to keep with tradition, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at my grandma's. "Santa" knew where to find me, and when I opened my stocking I found my usual fare, but I also found an orange. My first orange in my stocking. Later, on the way home, my mom mentioned that my grandma insisted that I get an orange, because that was always Grandma's favorite thing about Christmas. They always got an orange in their stocking, because it was the only time they could splurge for such things. At eighteen I brushed it off, but now that I'm a mother, it gets me every time. Just how significant that orange is in my grandmothers life. In all my years of hoping for baubles and gift cards in my stocking, my grandma still finds joy in a simple orange. It's not unusual for her to offer a couple of oranges to me before I leave her house on Christmas Eve, just in case I need them. I'm always happy to take them.

These memories and so many more flooded back to me that day as Mackenzie proudly held her Dreidel winnings. Like my own Christmas memories, very few of them have a price tag. Most of them are about the experience. They are about how our hearts felt and how good those chocolate coins tasted after such a victory. Christmas memories that are set to a song, have their own fragrance, memories that take you back to your eighth Christmas or your twenty third. Christmas memories that have nothing to do with an iPad, an Xbox, or a two headed Monster High doll that is sold out until February. I forget that my sweetest Christmas memories are the ones that happened when we were just living.

Heres to a Christmas that are filled with memories that are priceless. The ones that can't be bought, but just experienced through the eyes of that child who still lives in your heart. It's not too late to make wonderful memories that are free, and will stay with you and your family for a lifetime.

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