1) The year I got a pocket knife in my stocking. My memory has us at my grandparents’ house in Iowa, so it would have been sometime between kindergarten and 3rd grade, when we lived in Missouri. The stockings were hung over the fireplace in the living room, my grandmother’s sitting room that we never actually used, so it was special and a little mysterious. We never did Santa, but stocking gifts were the surprise ones, the ones that weren’t on our lists, the whimsical things.
2) The Christmas program when I was in 4th grade at the missionary school in Taiwan. Those who wanted to narrate tried out at the beginning of lunchtime. When I returned from lunch, there was a script sitting on my desk. I did the biblical narration and a 5th grade boy did the contemporary narration while all the other kids sang songs in between. I ate it up. I loved reading all those words, being chosen, standing out, but mostly getting to do the thing I love best in the world, reading out loud, making the words my own, making them sound right.
3) The Christmas program when I was in 5th grade. The elementary Christmas program was very different that year. We were split into different groups and sang songs. Some people had solos. This is completely my memory from when I was 10, so I have no idea how much of this is right. Ours was a quartet of all four fifth grade girls: Sharon, Becky, Heidi, and me. We were going to sing “I Wonder as I Wander” but one day our music teacher came in with a new song and suggested we might want to do it instead. It was another thoughtful, haunting song and we loved it (we were kind of a somber crew). I swear it was called “Consolation,” but I barely remember it and I’ve never seen it again. An internet search has given me several hymn tunes called “Consolation,” but I have yet to find the actual song.
4) The Year of Two Trees. I loved Christmastime with my post-college roommates. At my house, we always did homey trees, and if I ever have a tree again, it will be a homey tree, but my roommates did fancy trees and they were beautiful. The first year, we got our tree at the end of Thanksgiving vacation. We decorated together with Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas playing in the background. It was fun and special and a cherished evening. Hearing “You don’t have to be an angel…” takes me right back to that night. But the tree got really dead and dry before Christmas and we were going to have the church New Year’s party at our apartment. So the first Sunday of Christmas vacation, Illinois roommate had a date in San Diego and Tennessee roommate and I did some church activity and then went to our favorite hangout, Mimi’s Cafe, with our dear friends who would be getting married at Christmas the following year. While there, we joked about getting a new Christmas tree and surprising our roomie. So we did. The four of us, starting at like 9:00 at night, went to the Christmas tree lot, picked out a new tree, took it home, undecorated the first one, set it outside to deal with later (though we didn’t have to because someone came and took it while it was sitting outside), and decorated the second one. It was so much fun. And my roommate and I waited up for our other roommate (we were so young and energetic) and had fun letting her discover the newly alive tree. Good memories.
That was also the year both roommates separately got me Keith Green’s The Ministry Years Volume I. I was the one with the CD collection and they thought I needed Keith Green in it, but never mentioned it to each other. I exchanged one of the Volume Is for a Volume II.
5) I have to admit that Christmas has been harder since I’ve been married. The kids are getting old enough now that they can join in the fun, but Computerguy just doesn’t have much of a Christmas sensibility. He always just went to his folks’, so he never bothered decorating his house or anything and I cannot get him enthused with the idea. But, the year I was pregnant with Bubble, we actually got his parents to come south and we had the big all-day family Christmas here, and my Tennessee roommate happened to be in town and was able to make it for the big family party with her husband and 16-month-old (who wandered around taking my little Pooh bears to everyone), and it was a good time.