I can close my eyes and return to a very special Christmas Eve from many years ago. Me, sitting cross-legged under the Christmas tree with my dog Tipper, anxiously awaiting the warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies that would soon emerge from the oven. My mom was the best baker. All the neighborhood kids declared it so, as she always seemed to have homemade brownies, cakes or other sweet treats ready for us to enjoy with a glass of milk when they came by.
This particular Christmas Eve was special. I was maybe eight years old, and I was allowed to open one present early. It was just what I’d hoped for, my first Barbie with extra outfits, tiny shoes and matching handbag! What luck, what joy – who could want anything else?
But there was more. Our tree was the prettiest creation I had ever seen. A couple days before, we had stomped around the fresh tree lot – coats buttoned tight, hats and mittens pulled snug to keep us warm, and our breath visible in tiny puffs - searching for just the right Scottish pine. Its scent and sparkle filled the house, decked out with hand-glued paper garlands, vintage glass ornaments, giant multi-colored bulbs and glistening strands of silver tinsel.
Our curtains were open, and snow was falling. In the Midwest where I grew up, the large, fluffy flakes came down hard and fast, packing the streets and sidewalks with a crunchy powder that no kid could resist. I watched the different shapes and sizes tumble past the streetlights out front.
All was warm and cozy inside, radiating so much love and joy that it could have lit up our entire neighborhood. What a magical Christmas Eve. I’ve carried that memory with me all these years.
My mom is no longer with us, and I’ve lived in Texas now for longer than I did my home city of St. Louis. Today, I carry on those same traditions with my own kids, their significant others, their children and pets. Like my mom, I’m the family baker, giving her a nod and a smile each time I follow the same chocolate chip cookie recipe and take requests for brownies, St. Louis gooey butter cake, cranberry cake, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies. And just like her, I delight in seeing the family take that first mouthwatering bite with a cold mug of milk.
It's interesting how traditions are passed on from generation to generation. This year, we welcomed a new grandbaby (our oldest son’s beautiful daughter, adding to their very special 13-year-old twins); we celebrated as our middle son completed his PhD and started an exciting new career; and we spent a most wonderful weekend with friends and loved ones as our youngest son married his best friend and the love of his life.
The newlyweds will host Christmas Eve at their house this year, just like our oldest son and his family take their turn at Thanksgiving. For me and my husband, it’s easy. We just load the car with food and presents and pass the mantle to the new generation. It’s their turn now, and someday when we’re just a memory, I hope they’ll continue to hold us dear in their hearts like I cherish those thoughts of my mom, her love, that one special Christmas Eve and all the others we shared.
To you and yours, my family and I wish you love, happiness and beautiful memories – the ones you carry with you and those still to be made. Happy holidays!
What are your special holiday memories? Think back, year to year, and consider the best ones or those that gave you the warmest feelings. You don’t have to work hard to create those moments – they often just happen. Holiday traditions bring us together, give our lives meaning, connect us to our past and help create new and stronger bonds, both present and future. Take a moment to breathe it all in.
Sally Crocker is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and brand communications storyteller. She's won numerous regional, national and international awards for her writing and was named as 2020 Communicator of the Year by PR Daily's Nonprofit PR Awards. Sally trained as a newspaper journalist early in her career, where she developed a keen eye for uncovering important stories of the day that interest and inspire readers.