Here it comes, the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time when the world gets a little softer and people get a little sweeter — strangers smile and hold doors for one another, houses bloom into beautiful structures of blinking lights, pine and cinnamon smells linger in the air, families reunite over bountiful meals and the magic of the season starts to reveal itself.
Along with the joys of Christmas comes that memory that almost everyone has a someone close to them who is no longer present. The thought of them makes the sights and sounds of Christmas turn into a small reminder in the pit of their stomach of the pain of their absence. And if you let it, it can shred the happiness of the present season.
Although I think of her so very often, Christmas time always brings on the overload of memories of my grandma. I was the baby grandchild for so long, and, even when the younger ones came along, they lived far away so I got to take advantage of the baby status. There were many nights throughout the years of drinking Big Red and beating her and my grandpa at endless games of rummy. Despite what some of the other grandchildren may think, I was truly my grandma’s favorite and she always had a way of making me feel special. But the best and most vibrant memories of her are all related to Christmas.
You see, I was her go-to girl — we decorated together, made cookies together and always hummed along to Kenny G (neither one of us could carry a tune). If she wasn’t humming, she was whistling as she came down the hallway carrying gifts. I always wrapped all her presents so I knew ahead of time what each person was getting. I loved hearing her explain why she bought each one. They all had a certain meaning and were picked out carefully and with love.
She taught me how to wrap gifts and never questioned my not-so-straight edges on the odd-shaped toys. I can still hear her reminder to fill out the tag before I wrap the present so I don’t forget who it is for (which I still do today). And I remember running my fingers along her handwriting on the top left corner of the clothes boxes that named who was to receive that gift. Whether it was teaching me Christmas traditions or simply telling me about her past, she always made sure our time together was special, and I secretly hated sharing her with all the other cousins on Christmas Eve.
A couple of weeks before we all got together for Christmas in 1996, she handed me a small gift. It was an adorable scene of a child sleeping with a snow globe in the background. It was the first time she entrusted me with a breakable gift and, even at only 11 years old, I knew that this gift was one I would cherish forever. It’s nothing extraordinarily special or valuable, but to me, it carries the worth of our memories together.
Every year, I especially love pulling out our snow globe scene and again seeing her handwriting on the top of the box. And I am reminded year after year that she carefully chose this piece for me. It reminded her of me. And now, it reminds me of her.
The water in the snow globe has been gone for years now — as has she. In fact, as of last year, I have officially lived more of my life without her in it than with her. But if I didn’t know that, I would never believe it. You see, I feel this lady constantly — and still cannot believe she is gone.
We didn’t take pictures back then like we do now. Don’t get me wrong — I do have some pictures of her, but they don’t compare to the vivid picture of her in my mind. It’s like a permanent image that I can pull up at any time. And I am so thankful for that, and for her! She took the time to make an everlasting imprint on my heart. I miss her dearly. I don’t know that I will ever stop.
But she taught me to love this season and all the gifts — especially the intangible ones — that come with it. And although every year my heart breaks just a tad bit more because she is not here, I know her spirit and love of Christmas lives in me, and my only hope is to pass that love on to my babies.
Sometimes, reminiscing and feeling the memories of Christmas past can truly make for one of the best Christmas presents.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.