When I try to remember the best Christmas ever, it’s impossible. It’s not that I never had a best Christmas ever. But no single memory explodes into smiling snowflakes and flashing Christmas tree lights.
The same goes with the worst Christmas ever. They exist somewhere in my memory like empty beer cans tossed under a sparsely decorated dead Christmas tree.
Selective memories fade in time and prove that each moment is temporary. Some moments are like the whiff of a freshly peeled orange on Christmas morning. Others are like a drunk’s sour breath next to me at Christmas dinner.
Joy. Sadness. Temporary. The three bells of Christmas.
If there was anything I could change about this end of year celebration, I would change our media’s endless Norman Rockwell depiction of how Christmas and winter holidays should be because they are not always perfect. Our desperate need to make them perfect is like too much salt in a Christmas pudding.
My childhood holiday memories are all of the above-but so out of focus that I can’t pinpoint an exact moment in time when I inhaled the fresh spurt of orange oil or drunkenness’s putrid breath.
In my frenzied attempt to create a Rockwellian Christmas for my children, I earned the Queen of Christmas crown. My queenly duties all but killed me between hosting the best office or club parties, the epic shopping, cookie exchange parties, Secret Santa club lunches, the Christmas Tree decorating party after my daughters performed in the annual Nutcracker production, stringing lights on my two-story home, Christmas Eve festivities, and the preparation and hosting of a Christmas dinner extravaganzas for 20 or more.
One by one, my children left their wings near my heart, and they left the nest that I so carefully lined with tinsel, angel hair, and peppermint scented candles to light the way.
The never-planned-for day came. Neither child (now adults) would be home for Christmas. My Kodachrome photo of a perfect Christmas ripped in half. The queen stood dethroned.
That Christmas I remember most. It turned the page of my family album.
Instead of family and friends gathered at my Christmas Eve decorated table, centered with a steaming pot of fondue, spouse and I sat with strangers in a bay side café. We sipped red wine and ate fish tacos. It was different. Angst for perfection left the room. Sunset over the Pacific Ocean was carnelian red, tinged with orange and deep teals. I might have spotted the elusive green flash. Spouse and I each opened the present we bought for each other. The moments grew more special with the quiet and the vacancy of nothing to do. Christmas day included hunting for jade along the beach and me preparing the fresh local lobster for a candlelight dinner for two. The Pacific Ocean slapped waves on the rocks. This mermaid music soothed my soul.
I was not tired. I was not exhausted. Such a strange feeling. Nearly alone and away from my children on Christmas day didn’t drag me into the ashes from last night’s hearth.
Christmas day was Christmas past the next morning. To awaken fresh and energized stunned me.
I still can’t remember the best Christmas ever. And like my Yuletide crown, I have put all the worst Christmas’s ever to rest.
The joys, the dread, the laughter and the tears were temporary. Now I take each Christmas season as my time to play, to reflect, and to slowly peel a fresh picked orange and let its sweetness fill the air and my heart.