there are certain times in life, specific days or seasons or stages, that seem to be absolutely dripping with a predisposed notion of Magic. the very anticipation and expectations placed upon these times almost always transcend the reality of them, for is it not the breatheless wonder of the planning and dreaming stages that we so love? the young girl’s delirious excitement of her first prom, bubbling on the arm of a high school sweetheart as they practice the pretense of growing up; her later fairytale notions of an airy wedding, in which she’s a dream of lace and snowy beauty. the sought-after romance and otherness of a foreign city, treading sidewalks underlaid with history’s greatest tales and collecting sunsets from such ineffably renowned locales as the Spanish Steps or the beaches of Bali. we all long for Magic whether we admit it or not. i refuse to believe otherwise.
i believe this is why we love Christmas so much, and spend every waking moment from December 1-December 25 preparing for, talking about and looking forward to this most treasured of all American holidays. it’s a day with an unprecedented reputation for all things magical and a boundless capacity for love, commemorating the most astounding supernatural event in all of history: the day God took form as a human, humbly entering the world in a dingy stable, and setting into motion his ultimate plan of salvation for the human race. how’s that for a bit of Magic in the world?
i’ve always loved Christmas. my parents did a fabulous job of making it a memorable, joyful, wake-up-with-the-sun-because-i’m-too-excited-to-sleep morning for Ryan and i every year of our young lives. i have so many cherished memories from Christmases past (my own personal “ghosts of Christmas past,” which are all lovely and adorable and smile-inducing), and all my Christmases almost seem to bleed into one long string of beloved snapshots. it’s impossible for me to think of Christmas as just one day; for me, each Christmas contains all the wonder and joy of all the other ones preceeding it, pregnant with the memories of my blessed childhood and the family with whom i’ve been fortunate to share such incomparable moments.
there was the Christmas morning when i was probably five years old, and Ryan ate far too much chocolate and threw up all over the living room, and they have me on video tape talking to my doll when nobody else was in the room and exclaiming, “he threw up!”
there was the year my father gave my mother a beautiful diamond ring, about which Ryan and i knew prior, and she was so shocked she burst into tears — which caused little Ryan to immediately burst into tears and sob, “she doesn’t like it! dad, she doesn’t like it!” in complete misinterpretation of my mother’s emotions.
there was the year when all us cousins put on a recital of sorts for our parents and grandparents (under my direction, as i was not only the eldest, but the bossiest one prone toward leadership), singing a variety of Christmas songs in my grandma’s living room with all the solemnity and pride of Broadway performers…
and the year i first doubted the existence of the elusive Santa Clause, constantly asking my mother after each gift, “so, is this from YOU, Mom?” and trying to catch her eye in an attempt to say, “i’m grown-up now, you can let me in on this whole fake Santa thing” while not shattering the belief of my darling little brother…
and then the past few years in my 20s, when Christmas became more of a personal, immediate family day rather than the bustling craziness of our younger years. when the mounds and piles of presents were no longer Christmas morning icons and we had nowhere to go but our lakehouse living room, nestling in closer together with a sophisticated contentment in the act of simply being and enjoying one another’s company. we’d cradle coffee mugs and keep our slippers on and relish the quietness of this special day, each harboring our own private thoughts of thankfulness for the life we share and the love we’ve always kept at the center of our little circle.
and it is an entirely different kind of Magic altogether, separate from the squealing ecstacy of our younger years and the thrill of tearing paper and exclaiming over wish-list gifts and measuring the worth of the day in surprises, cookies and the generosity of our parents. it’s the purest kind of Magic; the kind that slides into a house unannounced and settles into the nooks and crannies with a comfortable, slow contentment of belonging, cradling our buoyant hearts as we sprawl and doze by the fire and feel the ultimate truth of the season:
when you realize you no longer want anything more than what you already have, you’ve discovered the greatest Magic of all.