Although time has moved on far more quickly than I could have imagined, childhood memories of days gone by still remain, especially those magical moments called holidays.
Who could forget the aroma of mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie for dessert? Our table was set for a king and even though we were far from well-to-do, ours was a feast indeed, leaving no doubt about our royal heritage, especially at Thanksgiving. Like others, our family wasn’t perfect, but as we gathered around this table of plenty expressing our gratitude for the simple, ordinary gifts of life, there was a deepening of appreciation for each other, and for those experiences shared in common that brought us together and kept us together as a family.
As Thanksgiving, with its turkey and all the trimmings, faded away, our community evolved into a magical land of make believe. Houses, once dark and uninviting, were now places of interest, destinations for sight-seers. There were reindeer and sleighs, elves and singing minstrels, candles, wreathes and colored lights designed to hold the attention of young and old alike. This was the Disneyland that I knew, long before there was a destination by that name. Yes, Christmas had come again and my childhood heart was filled with wonder at the beauty and magic of it all.
Towards the beginning of December my parents and sister and I checked out the evergreens at a Christmas tree lot not far from our home. Even though prices had gone through the roof (75 cents), we went ahead, paid the attendant, tied the tree securely to the top of our car and headed home. Once inside, the aroma of evergreen filled the house, and before long, with the help of mom, dad and some little hands, our tree became anything but ordinary. It was absolutely beautiful … a work of art, covered in tinsel and crowned with an angel.
As Christmas Eve drew near and presents under the tree grew as well, so did the excitement of two little people, especially me. I was the youngest in the family, and even though I was very shy, I managed to get up enough courage to sit on Santa’s knee at one of the big department stores in town and tell him what I wanted for Christmas. Of course, there was no doubt in my little mind that he would deliver just as he promised.
Like other children, I too had been told of Santa’s amazing journey around the world bringing candy canes, toys, and special presents to “good boys and girls.” And since I had been a good boy … well … at least most the time, certainly Santa would remember me too! Right?
And … indeed he did, even though he didn’t come exactly the way I had expected. You see, our family lived in the South and there was no snow or at least very little. That’s probably why I didn’t see any reindeer or a sleigh.
I did hear him though. One late night on Christmas Eve he arrived. He didn’t come down our chimney, but his arrival was just as exciting. With my heart in my throat and eyes as big as saucers, I could hear the sound of heavy boots coming up our basement steps. Suddenly with a “HO, HO, HO,” our basement door opened and there he was … the man in red with the white flowing beard. And me … I was electrified … unable to move. It was fantastic … unbelievable, but true! Santa had come! I was not forgotten!
Memories. How special. As my mind wanders back across the years to that time when childhood dreams and fantasies came true, I find myself wishing that I could go back to those good old days, that I could be a child again, exploring once more that place of innocence where imagination and reality were one in the same.
Is it possible? Can we go back? Could we become children again?
We may not be able to erase the years, but the child within is still there, and when given the freedom, is ready to make every holiday a celebration and each day a grand adventure.
Note: Daryl Meyers, PVMC’s Chaplain and Community Relations Director, and his wife Kerstin were the hospital Santa and Mrs. Claus for over 20 years, a role apparently passed on by former family Santa’s,