Without a doubt, my favorite time of the year, the most wonderful time of the year, the time of year I look forward to more than any other — is Christmas time. What’s not to love about this time of year. This particular Christmas is special for me next Christmas I’ll be a father. Crazy.
Today on SBM I want us all to go on a journey down memory lane and look back at some of my favorite holiday season memories – accompanied of course by some of our favorite holiday music. Here are a few of my most memorable Christmases and a few of my favorite Christmas songs.
Christmas 1986 – Candyland, My Mom, and My Brother
1987 was kind of a rough year for the Spradley family. All sorts of family turmoil made for sweeping changes in our family structure – this made 1986 one of the best Christmases I ever had when looking back on it. I was 3 & ½ years old, my older brother was just about five and it was our last Christmas together. We woke up early, ran down stairs and slid into the tree as was our tradition to that point. The gifts from my mom, grandmother and father were bountiful- it’s the first Christmas I remember where I really understood what was going on, what the holiday was about. Key gifts that year were the board-games Candyland and Shoots and Ladders. I remember we barely got through opening the rest of the gifts we were so geeked to play those two games.
When I think of a song that captures this memory, I have to go with N’Sync’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays”. I know N’Sync was super-cheesy, and I know they’re a boy band, but the carefree spirit of the song and the upbeat tempo remind me of a time when I had no cares in the world. All I wanted to do was run downstairs, slide into a tree with my brother and see what Santa had in store for us on Christmas morning.
Christmas 1993 – Nike Diamond Turf and Canasta
As I mentioned in last week’s post on Christmas gifts, as a child, I could never bring myself to ask for expensive stuff for Christmas. It just didn’t seem right. But while I could consciously understand the absurdness of buying $100.00 sneakers for a child who’s feet are growing faster than Pinocchio’s nose, it didn’t make me not want them. Christmas morning 1993, first box I open I find a pair of Nike Diamond Turf’s – also known as the “Dions”. What made this gift special wasn’t that they were Nike or that they were expensive, it was that my grandmother and aunt went out of their way to get them for me because they knew I would never ask for them. That act of kindness and thoughtfulness has shaped how I approach shopping for the people I love on Christmas.
93′ was also a special year because my grand mother, my aunt, and my great aunts finally taught me how to play Canasta. Canasta is a card game played almost exclusively by old women. It’s long as hell (first person to 4000 points wins), and my family used to play it all day long on holidays. Learning to play Canasta and being invited to sit at the Canasta table was a rite of passage of sorts for me. It marked my ascendence into adulthood. It also gave me the opportunity to spend time with and get to know my 70 and 80 year old aunts who ended up playing a huge roll in shaping me into the man I am today.
The song that I think of when I think about Christmas 1993 is Bob Seger’s version of “Little Drummer Boy”. This is one of my all time favorite songs because it captures the spirit of the season. It captures this idea that it’s not about how much money you have or what your gift is, it’s about everybody doing what they can to make someone else feel special. The little drummer boy didn’t have any money – so he played his drum for the king. Even the Ox and Lamb did their part- playing along– keeping time. This was how Christmas was for us that year, we weren’t broke, we weren’t rich, we just did the best we could to be together as a family and make each other feel loved.
Christmas 2008 – First Christmas In Our Current Home
During the 2008 holiday season, MrsMost and I were in the middle of major renovations at the crib. The prior two years we’d spent Christmas at my in-laws’ house because we just didn’t have the space to host. So, while the renovations weren’t quite complete by the time Christmas rolled around (even though they were supposed to be done by Thanksgiving) we still bought a tree and made it work. It was the first time we had Christmas in our home and it was wonderful. Sometimes life makes it impossible for you to continue with certain traditions or celebrate certain holidays the way you did when you were a child. When that happens you can either give up on the holiday, or you can start new traditions. Christmas 2008 allowed me to start a new tradition with a family of my own – one I have continued and look forward to continuing for many years to come.
When I think of Christmas 2008 I think of Mariah’s classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. I can still picture MrsMost and I playing this as we decorated our first Christmas tree together, shutting off the lights once finished to look at our handy work. This song is a great reminder that while gifts and huge meals and all the other stuff we do to celebrate are great, all we really need for Christmas are the people who are most important to us. It was Christmas 2008, more than any other, that reminded me of the fact that MrsMost really was – and is – all I want for Christmas – as sappy and un-Most-like as that sounds.
Christmas 2004 – Grandma.
I lost my grandmother on July 4th, 2004. Losing my grandmother for me was huge because she was, in many ways, my mother. But with a house to take care of, a full-time job, and a full class schedule at Hofstra University, I kept myself busy enough that it didn’t really hit me. The holiday season rolled around and I was good. I put up a Christmas tree like grandma and I always had, and invited MrsMost and her family over for a Christmas Eve dinner (she wasn’t yet MrsMost at this point). I cooked all day, they came by in the evening, ate, played games, exchanged gifts and had a really great night. Then they all went home. Midnight passed, Christmas Eve turned into Christmas morning and all of a sudden it hit me. I was all alone. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have my grandmother on Christmas. The full weight of all of the emotion I’d bottled up since the funeral, all through the summer and all through the school semester came crashing down and I really didn’t know what to do. I cried. I cried in a way I can’t really remember crying before or since. I cried till I went to sleep that night and when I woke up in the morning I cried a little more. I can’t remember a time I ever felt less in control of myself. But as much as it hurt, it was also beautiful, it was my chance to reflect on just how special my grandmother was, how deeply connected we were, and how unconditionally she loved me and I loved her. Christmas 2004 I mourned – and in mourning my grandmoms – I again remembered why this time of year is worthwhile and important.
The song I think of when I think of Christmas 2004 is my favorite Christmas song of all: Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.” It was one of my grandmother’s favorites; it reminds me of those I’ve lost- that they live on through the memories we made on December 25ths past. And it reminds me of those I’ve found and the memories we’ll make on December 25ths to come.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but get a little nostalgic around this time of year. Just writing this post brought up a myriad of memories I hadn’t touched in ages. This time of year also makes me hopeful. I look out into the future and see myself making Christmas magical for some little kid who happens to be mine and who I happen to love – the same way those who loved me made my Christmases magical. Take this trip down memory lane with me. Share your favorite Christmas songs and memories. Tis the season… let’s get in the spirit folks.