The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. — Clement Clarke Moore
As I sat pensively staring out the window this Christmas morning, I was holding my week-old son in my arms and giving him a bottle. This oft-repeated act done by parents the world over for centuries in and of itself was satisfying, but I couldn’t help but drift back to my own childhood memories.
Christmas has always been about family for me, even on those Christmases when I was not able to be in New York. The tug of the power of home was always greatest at this time of year, and I suspect that this is the same for many people. Above all for me it was being able to celebrate with my parents, grandparents, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins as we had done every year since I was a boy. Any break in that tradition caused much angst as I scrambled to find (in those dark ages before cellular phones and e-mail) a pay phone to call home.
There is a layering of Christmases past for me, sort of like an onion tree ornament that can be peeled off to reveal each year. Sometimes they coalesce and the good memories are revealed in an array of colors fanning out in my mind: the twinkling lights, the ubiquitous carols playing somewhere in another room, the clinking of plates and utensils, the hoisting of drinks and toasts made, the reverberations of laughter from grandparents and aunts and uncles now long gone but never forgotten.
Christmas has never been the same since my mother passed away in May 2006. I have tried to get into the holiday spirit as best as I can. I hang the stockings on the mantel, remembering how she did this for me as a child, and I feel a tug on my heart as I watch the lights reflecting off the vibrant reds and dark greens in the fabric, knowing Mom is with me even if she is not here.
So, as I sat giving my infant son a bottle, I counted my blessings. I sat in a warm house with a fire in the hearth. Numerous presents for my son and daughter rested under the tree waiting to be opened, and the music played softly in another room just as it always had in my youth. Just as my son finished his bottle and I prepared to hoist him onto my shoulder for a gentle patting to illicit his passing of gas, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” drifted across the room and I felt a shiver of all those who were gone being present with me, seeing my son in his infancy and knowing how truly life goes on.