If I had a blog, today I would write about my quest to reclaim the treasures of my youth.
It began almost ten years ago on eBay. Christmas was coming and I was longing for the holiday music of my childhood. I had been able to reclaim some of the classics: Johnny Mathis Christmas, Percy Faith and His Orchestra, and the country Christmas albums by Alabama, Kenny & Dolly, The Oak Ridge Boys, and the Statler Brothers. As much as I enjoyed listening to my old friends, one set of voices was missing: The dulcet tones of an album called The Wonderful World of Christmas. This compilation of songs sung by 70s stars like Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Shore, Bobby Vinton, and Nat King Cole defined Christmas for me when I was young. In fact, I still have the original record, but it is so scratched and fuzzy from loving wear, that the music barely comes through. When eBay appeared on the scene, I searched the internet year after year, hoping to find a high quality version of my album, but my searches always came to naught. Then, one foggy Christmas Eve, it happened: I typed in my search on eBay and there it was – in the original cover and everything. Winning the lottery wouldn’t have made me happier! The joy I felt listening to my favorite record (now converted to MP3) inspired me to search for other childhood treasures that I had lost or worn out over the passing years.
Three years ago, I located the dinosaur play-set I had as a kindergartener. At the tender age of five, I was determined to be a paleontologist and I spent endless hours reenacting the life-and-death struggles of the brontosaurus, T-Rex, and others as they meandered through their plastic paleo-world. These toys, too, had been loved out of existence long ago and when, after forty years, I held those beloved dinosaurs once again, I was moved to tears as another hole in the fabric of my life was made whole.
This year I located a book I loved in middle-school: A collection of biographies of nurses who served in World War II. I latched onto this book because, at the time, I had just seen the mini-series Ike, and was fascinated with the Second World War. This particular book was also a milestone in my life as an aspiring writer: Because many of the stories did not have “Happily Ever After” endings, I realized, for the first time, that there is a poignant beauty in sadness, a sense of pathos that is deeply moving. The book inspired me to write more, write better, and write stories that touched people’s hearts.
The second treasure I reclaimed this Christmas is a set of five elves climbing a rope ladder with twinkle lights in their hands. These little pixies had been absent from my life since I was five or six years old – when the wires disintegrated with age and the lights went dark forever – or so I thought. Now the wee elves again climb merrily on our glistening tree. Their presence is reassuring. In a world that moves forward at a furious rate, I need to know the past is not lost; that I can still reach out and touch bits and pieces of a time when life was simple and pure. These totems from my early years transport me back to a place where I felt safe, secure and cared for in a way children know.
Life is so fleeting and so precious, I don’t want to forget a moment of my time here on planet Earth. I want to be able to reach back and grasp the hand of the child I was as well as reach forward to the woman I will become and let her, too, clasp hands with the child. Then the circle of my life will be complete; a seamless pattern without beginning or end. Perhaps it is this continuity that inspired Ebeneezer Scrooge when he said, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”
We cannot be whole without embracing each phase of our lives, however imperfect they may be. If we are willing to take on this challenge, not only will we understand the magic of Christmas, but we will live that magic all year round.