The Ghosts of Christmas Past

One of my fondest Christmas memories is from the winter of ’85.

It was my twelfth celebration of the holidays, and they still held that excitement that is multiplied by childhood; that almost narcotic eagerness that gradually diminishes with the coming of adulthood. I had barely managed to sleep at all that night. I was awake and ready for the festivities to begin by five in the morning. Even pretending to sleep another hour or two was no an option.

The rules for Christmas morning (I believe some people like to refer to them as ‘traditions’) had been firmly established years ago. My younger brother and I knew them well. Mom and Dad were allowed to awaken on heir own, and the unwrapping of presents would only commence when they had bathrobes on and coffee in hand. However, stockings were open game, and could be taken down as soon as we were up. They were huge four foot macramé stockings, and were always stuffed with enough toys and candy to distract us long enough for the coffee to brew.

Hell bent on Xmas booty, I snuck through the dark house and retrieved my stocking, making it to the living room and back without turning on any lights. Unfortunately, the lamp in my bedroom chose that moment to die out, and I found myself stuck in total darkness with a gigantic sock full of goodies. Determined to dig in, I stayed in the pitch black room and dug each item out of the stocking, silently identifying them by size, weight and shape.

The last item, buried at the bottom of the stocking, was also the largest. It was a hardcover book. I could feel slick dust cover and ruffle the pages, but no matter how hard I tried, my eyes would not adjust enough for me to make out the title of the book. I could venture into another room and turn on a light, but I was afraid I might accidentally wake Mom and Dad up, and it was way to early for that to be risked.

Unwilling to give up and set the book aside until later, I sat there in the darkness and waited for dawn. The minutes went by slowly. The first light of Christmas morning eventually filled my bedroom, I was finally able to make out he cover of Douglas Adams’ newest novel, So Long, And Thanks for All the Fish.

I have received countless treasured gifts throughout the years, before and since. But for some reason, my mind will always go back to the frustration, anticipation, and eventual elation of that particular morning. I don’t know why books have always held such a fascination for me. There is something about the bound page and printed word that promises experiences and emotions, thoughts and ideas, that you never suspected were in you.

That fond Christmas memory is now twenty three years old. Age and wisdom may have slightly dimmed the sparkling spectacle of wrapped gifts and bulging stockings. But books still manage to raise a simple and childish joy deep within me. Somehow, they still manage to make me believe. I hesitate to call it magic. Passion might be a better word for it.

No matter where you are, or how you choose to celebrate it, may the Holidays fill you with the same magic, or passion, that it did for me that dimly lit December day.

Merry Christmas to all.

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