Letters of Life

A Christmas Memory

Sunlight . . . and a thousand memories.

Photography: Ethan Chan

Driving home for Christmas,

With a thousand memories . . . Chris Rea, Driving Home For Christmas (1998)

Christmas has always come not with presents, but with a lot of baggage. Absent parents in my youth meant a silent house, no plans for turkey dinners, always relying on the kindness of aunts and uncles to remember to invite us to theirs.

We would sit in living rooms filled with yellow light, work up smiles and polite conversation, outsiders warming ourselves by the hearths of happy cousins with their together parents until it was time to go home.

I would involve myself in youth group Christmas activities at church, and then take the bus home in the evening. The bus would take me through town, and it always rained at night this time of year. Always. The streets would be brightly streaked with red and pink light, the malls incandescent. Christmastime was many evenings of me sitting alone in a crowded bus, looking through rain-splattered windows at the black streets shot through with rainbow lights cast from neon, going home to a shell of a home.

I’m glad that Christmases aren’t that way for me now: Twenty-six years of solitude at Christmas balanced against the recent 19 happier ones with a family of my own. I am grateful that my children are ignorant how empty Christmases can feel, but sometimes the memories come back, just like the rain.

I love rainy nights. The things that did not kill you but made you strong always have a season, a climate, a weather to go with it. I take the weather with me everywhere I go.

Events this Christmas–the entire December in fact–have been extra-special, compared to previous ones. I’ve spent time with old friends who matter more than I care to admit, was part of an exhilarating morning run on a slushy forest trail, gained a new friend who found my parenting advice actually useful, and have been given a Christmas present I asked for partly in jest, not really thinking I would get it. (Who has the gall to ask for specific gifts when one can get things for oneself?)

This season of wonderment will stretch beyond Christmas 2012. It’s a heady mix of seeing old friends who discovered you when you were discovering yourself, taking things easy with the children, good food, planning what will become a legendary party on New Year’s Eve and cool evenings in the tropics.

There’s an awareness that these good things come from the One who created Christmas for us, who has bestowed on me the enduring love of a man, my children, good friends, fine health, and a life where memories can somehow look more beautiful with age.

A thousand memories.


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