Memories Come Pouring In When You Unpack the Christmas Decorations

Was it really that many years ago that the handprints were made? And the apples painted? Or the porcelain statues first bought? Oh, the memories

Like many of you, I'm sure, the weekend of Thanksgiving is the time to check the Christmas lights, unpack the decorations and start putting everything that makes the holiday in its place.

Over the years, my family and I have moved a number of times and lived in assortment of houses. Maybe that's what makes the collection of decorations so special -- no matter where in the new house we decide to put them, they are still the familiar pieces of the past.

Never mind that baby Jesus is now missing part of an arm, as is Mary. And never mind that one member of the angel choir has no wings. These are the porcelain "Special Moments" figurines that have been unpacked and re-packed every Christmas for a quarter of a century.

One year, we wrapped the white ceramic Holy Family after the New Year and unwrapped them the following Thanksgiving to find them covered with mildew. I figured it couldn't get any worse and submerged them in a strong bleach solution for a few minutes and then scrubbed them with an old toothbrush. They were restored to pristine whiteness and are now carefully wiped down and left to air for a day before being wrapped.

For me, taking out these old, familiar friends and posing them in holiday splendor is a reassuring and constant ritual that starts the season off right.

For most Christmases of my life, money has been short, which may be why I loved reading a recent poll that found that only one in ten children could remember what they "got" for Christmas last year but ten of ten could name something they "did" at Christmas last year.

As this season opens, many of our friends and family members are struggling to recover from long periods of unemployment and challenges making ends meet. To all of them, I say:

 Merry Christmas. Enjoy the season. Make hot cocoa. Sing carols at a nursing home. Volunteer at a food bank. Deliver Toys for Tots. Serve Christmas dinner at your church or the Salvation Army or the YMCA.

Talk to your kids and grand-kids and neighbor kids about how great it feels to be part of the season. Smile at everybody you meet. And remember that this is the time of hope and peace and promise.  Let's all resolve to spend the next month concentrating only on those things that bring us joy and letting go of those that bring us distress.

Treasure happy memories. And no matter how hard it is, try to find at least one afternoon to devote to doing something that those who remember Christmas, 2010, will treasure.

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