A Christmas Memory
When my son was just a little guy, about three years of age, he was my side-kick in the car for hours at a time as I chauffeured his older sisters to school, dance lessons, after school activities, friends' houses, etc. We had a well-used, blue minivan with captain's chairs in the middle that the girls had commandeered, so he held down a car seat situated on the backbench seat. It was a safe place for him, but a long way from me as the driver. At times I could easily have forgotten he was with me because he was pretty happy just watching the world go by out the big window beside him. With a Batman action figure in one hand and a Power Ranger in the other, he fought bad guys and dreamed of saving the world as we sped from destination to destination. Some days we played Sesame Street songs and sang along, or told stories or played car games. We managed to make the best of the time we had to spend in the car.
At Christmas that year we enjoyed looking at the decorations in the foggy mornings while heading for school, or after dark as we hurried to get home for dinner. He loved the colored lights and took great delight in pointing out each house with the much-loved decorations, their bright colors shining boldly against the darkness. He was very excited about Christmas and we talked about going to his grandparent's houses for the holiday, all the cousins we would see, and which adventures we would have while there. Once his sisters spilled out of their schools for the holiday, we packed ourselves into the loaded-to-the-hilt van and set off for the long drive four states away to see our family. Driving through big cities or tiny burgs, we played Christmas tapes and watched the lights sparkle against a backdrop of wide, dark skies, imagining all the fun we would soon have.
Then, a week and a half later, after rooms full of gifts had been opened, all the cousins played with, the New Year celebrated, and the long, long trip home, we bailed out of the van and hauled our Christmas excesses into the house, glad to see our own beds again. The next day Christmas lights were taken down inside and out, and the tree shoved up in the attic along with all the other crates of decorations. Throughout this my little fella entertained himself playing with all his new action figures, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of the clean up around him.
Soon it was time for the girls to head back to school, so once again my guy was bundled into the van in early morning to help me drive the girls to school. It was particularly bleak that first morning back in the old routine and cold as could be. He watched patiently out the window as we drove through town, quiet and in his own world . . .or so I thought, until out of the back seat, he piped up his morning-rough voice and asked, rather shocked and a bit panicky, "Where did all the Christmas go?"
Bless him, he was right! Those sparkling lights had made all those December trips lots more fun. Colored lights promised Santa and reindeer, and baby Jesus, and ...fun. Our cold, gray January morning had lost the comfort of old friends. Next year, I told him. Not to worry. It'll all be back next year because there will always be another Christmas ahead. Next year, little buddy, next year.