Memories of Christmas gifts that money can’t buy

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”

― Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie series of children’s books published between 1932 and 1943

My Christmas spirit tends to replay memories along the lines of one thought or event from each Yuletide season. I guess when the memory banks have as many Christmas season deposits to catalog as mine, that’s the only way they can account for them.

I’ve penned columns for Christmas past about my belief that Christmas lives in the heart of a child. Ask me about a childhood Christmas and while I may not be able to precisely peg it with a year, I will have a story worth telling about it.

Like the Christmas in Pampa before I started school which means it was prior to 1954. My uncle Bill, mom’s younger brother who was in the Navy at the time, came to visit and brought a buddy with him. I got an electric train and it was a miserably cold Texas Panhandle Christmas.

Ask me about a Christmas from my children’s childhood and I have many. Like the Christmas when I grossly overestimated my toy assembling speed skills and stayed up all night finishing just as both the sun and curious children eager to see what Santa had left were rising. That one I would catalog at about 1985 or ’86—the year that Robin glanced at her gifts, then disappeared to her room with boxes and wrapping paper to create a magnificent model of Elvis’s Graceland home in Memphis.

Things like that go with the territory when your children are raised in an environment of cars and music from the 1950s.

Ask me about Christmas memories I’m making at this stage of life and I’m likely to share things like the fact that the progression of Christmas trees at our house has diminished in size and gifts have paled in importance.

Last year, I got the tree up but never got around to completing the decoration duties, so this year I have a tabletop tree that comes out of the box already decorated. As a bonus, it also comes down quicker and stores easily. Deck the halls with Christmas convenience.

As a good friend reminded me last week, there comes a time in life when our list gets smaller and we learn that the things we really want can’t be bought. Watching the generations following us and the memories made with them become our list.

So, it will most likely be that Christmas 2018 will be remembered as the year we gathered in Lindale, Texas, to hear grandson Sam Osteen perform at his first piano recital. Four generations of my daughter Robin’s family on her husband Jonathan’s side filled a couple of rows close to the front as 10-year-old Sam rendered a remarkable rendition of “Carousel.”

In all, 19 piano students under the tutelage of Cyndi Stripling in Lindale performed a variety of songs to the delight of family and friends before she concluded the recital with a stunning performance of “The Bell Carol.”

Combined with lunch and time to visit with my daughter and her family Sunday afternoon, this past weekend was the perfect seasonal inspiration for me as we entered the final few days before Christmas morning.

I wish for you the very best of what the Christmas spirit holds sacred in your heart. See the season through the heart of a child and make memories of Christmas gifts that money can’t buy.

Merry Christmas!

—Leon Aldridge

Photo at the top of the page: Sam Osteen playing “Carousel” at his first piano recital in Lindale, Sunday, December 16, 2018.

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune.


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