As the holiday season swings into overdrive, many of us agonize one more time over the perfect holiday gift for our loved ones. No matter the budget, no matter the list, the agonizing is a yearly ritual. One of my kids' early preschool teachers had the best gift idea of all. She said no matter what else you give them, be sure to give your kids some memories. When you get down to it, memories are one of the very few things that you can count on lasting.
I still think about that bit of advice as I reminisce about the best Christmas ever when my own children were small. In the classic family tradition, they were all snug in their beds. I had just finished my holiday cleaning. Every decoration was perfect, all the gifts were neatly wrapped and truth be known, Santa had already stopped by.
Then, as fate would have it, the dog needed to go outside. I was unaware it was even raining until he trotted back in through the kitchen, leaving a tell-tale trail of muddy paw prints across my fresh shinning floor. I stared in disbelief at the muddy paw prints. They led right up to the table where Santa's treats were still waiting. And then, in a flash, I grabbed a bowl, trotted right out into the rain and scooped up my own batch of newly-minted mud.
I pondered momentarily, wondering exactly what a reindeer's footprints looked like. Then I realized that since no one in my family had ever seen them either, the only thing that really mattered was that they had to be different from those of the dog. I started the tracks at the door, and planted muddy little three-toed paw prints right beside the dog prints. I went all the way up to the kitchen table, and then back to the door again.
Then I took out a piece of paper and wrote:
"I am so sorry, but Rudolph saw the snacks on the table and he came in behind me tracking mud all over the place. I am very sorry for the mess.
P.S. Thanks for the snacks."
For the finishing touch, I took a few really good bites out of some carrots and placed the stems back on the plate next to what now remained of Santa's cookies.
Of course, the kids found the note and the muddy reindeer mess before I got up. They rushed in to wake me up and tell me what Rudolph had done and for me to please not be mad at him for messing up my clean floor. Santa was really sorry. He even left a note.
What were the gifts that Christmas? I no longer have a clue. But ask the kids about the time Rudolph got loose in the house and tracked mud all over the kitchen. They will tell you and I still remember their faces and the excitement over the misadventures of Santa's errant reindeer. They'll never forget and I won't either.
Christmas was suddenly alive, it was real and the magic lived. Years later they asked me about that event and how it came about. A mom tracking mud over her own freshly-mopped floor never occurred to them. And so they believed. If there had ever been a shred of doubt in their minds, it vanished and Christmas was born once again.
You can never know when your magic moment might come. Our best ever was Rudolph's muddy mess. Everyone has a similar story, and if they don't they most certainly should. My mom told me that when she was a child all snug in her own bed, late one Christmas Eve, she heard sleigh bells in the darkness outside her window and she too believed. If you ask her about it today, she will tell you about those bells of yesteryear as if it were only last night.
This year, if you can, just for a moment, put the holiday frenzy on the back burner where it belongs. It's Christmas. Give the most enduring gift of all. Keep the magic alive. Give a memory.
I invite you to join in and share your own most special holiday memories.
Copyright Regina Pickett Garson