Monday, December 23, 2013

Sleigh Bells Ring...

Imagine a field covered in pure white snow - not a single track save for an animal or two. Thousands of ice crystals blanket the ground, sparkling from the sunlight. The sun shining above and the deep blue sky contrasts with the white snow. All of this framed by majestic mountains and lots of trees.
Percheron horses stand in the snow

Big Percheron horses stand ready to pull a sled. The sled is filled with hay bales and a big fire glows, read to warm 20 to 30 people. It's a peaceful scene, save for the 10-15 kids ready to ride the sled around the field. The kids are bundled up, throwing snowballs, dunking each other in the snow. The adults stand around the fire, drinking hot chocolate and homemade peppermint schnapps or coffee with homemade Kahlua. Big pots of chili warming by the fire. The adults are visiting, the kids are laughing - when the family patriarch Joe steps up and grabs the reins. Kids pile on the sled, a few of the adults leave the fire to join the ride. 

The sled lunges forward as the horses take off. They find their groove and make the first cut into the snow. The kids are smiling, pushing each other off the back of the sled - running to catch up and get back on. The sled makes several passes through the field. The kids are frozen, the adults are happy.

This is one of my favorite Christmas memories.

Growing up in beautiful southwestern Colorado, our family was lucky enough to call the Kolz family friends. They welcomed us as if we were family and every December, invited us to their place for sled rides and fun. Twenty to thirty of us would gather to ring in the holiday season.

Thinking about the Kolz family and these magical days always puts Christmas into perspective for me. It's easy to get stressed about whether I've bought enough, done enough, been perfect enough.

And then I smile and realize that my favorite Christmas memories have nothing to do with presents. It's about memories.

Let me share a few others:

  • My grandparents lived in Oregon and one year, we drove through the night (at least that's the way it seemed) to surprise them. We knocked on their door and I'll never forget the look on their faces. Mom swore we'd never surprise them again...she was afraid they'd have a heart attack. 
  • My other grandma lived in Tuscon. Grandma Carmen wasn't always the nicest and she didn't give the best gifts. But we'd drive for hours - my sister and I in the back seat, reading our Archie comic books, singing Christmas Carols, reading road signs, and eating a lot of junk food. The year my sister learned to read was also the year I got my first tape recorder. We made my grandma a tape for Christmas. From Colorado to Tuscon, I sang songs in my little 8 or 9 year old voice while my sister recorded herself reading every single road sign for miles and miles. A few years ago, my aunt gave me the tape and I smiled as I listened to it. A moment in time captured sis's little voice proud to be reading, my voice proudly singing before anyone took away my confidence. 
  • Stockings were always a big deal in our family. To this day, it's my favorite part of the present process. My mom would fill our huge stockings with goofy toys, nail polish, lip gloss, candy and other silly little trinkets. Our stockings would be over flowing while my mom's hung empty. One year when I was about 10, my sister and I talked about the injustice - mom never had anything in her stocking. With no money, we whipped up a plan to fill it up. We scoured the house for treasures. We found lighters mom had lost. Pens that had been lost in the couch cushions. We drew pictures, wrote her notes....and we proudly filled that stocking with our home's lost and found treasures. 
  • My first Christmas with Marcus - he was 8 months old. I remember his smiles and giggles as he played in the wrapping paper. Crawling around on the floor, sticking bows to his forehead and climbing up on my lap with the biggest grin. 
  • My second Christmas with Chad - I was in recovery from a tubal pregnancy that had ruptured, resulting in emergency surgery. I was depressed, lost inside myself, and focused more on the baby I lost than the family I had. Chad and Marcus went out one day, leaving me alone. They returned with the biggest Christmas tree I'd ever seen in my life. It literally filled half our living room. They turned on the Christmas music and set about to cheer me up. 

I know I'm forgetting some but every year, a few days before Christmas, I want to run out and buy more things. I want to spend the last few dollars I have to buy more. And then, I put everyone in bed, turn off all the lights except for the Christmas tree, sit on the couch with a cup of tea, and think back on my favorite Christmas memories. And I am reminded that Christmas doesn't come in a box. Merry Christmas everyone! 

No comments:

Post a Comment