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Friday, February 12, 2016  |  317 Days Until Christmas
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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book I Always Felt So Special
by O'Brien, Kathleen
Right Book

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Group: Stories
Language: English

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I love the holidays. Even the craziness of last minute shopping, baking and decorating softens when I catch the scent of fresh evergreen or hear a Christmas song. I see the image of a sleigh pulled by Clydesdale horses. I hear them as they lope down a snowy path. They pass a white farmhouse, its windows filled with the warm glow of Christmas. Inside I envision family members gathered around a Christmas tree, the heat of a fire illuminating their faces as they sing Christmas carols.

The reflection tugs at heart and I have an overwhelming desire to escape to Iowa and buy a farmhouse. This simple scene evokes a multitude of images and my mind drifts to childhood memories of Christmases past.

Our holiday season usually started a few weeks before Christmas. We would drive into the country to a Christmas tree farm, where we tromped through the woods to cut the perfect tree. My mother would decorate it and when she was finished, we would sit at its base hypnotized by its beauty. My dad would read Dickens, "A Christmas Carol" and in the background, Bing Crosby sang, "I'm Dreaming of A White Christmas". This was the official start of our Christmas.

Throughout the next few weeks we would bake cookies, visit Santa and watch it snow. At night we watched "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street" with a sense that there was more to the season than Santa and presents.

We celebrated Christmas on the Eve, so in the late afternoon my dad would load us into the car for church services. He would always forget something just as we were ready to leave. Ten minutes later he would return a little out of breath, with some excuse about the dog or a phone call that had delayed him.

At church, we watched while the congregation recreated the manger scene. I remember feeling awed and humbled when the 'baby Jesus' would cry. When we were older, we went to midnight services. We were given candles when we entered the church and within moments, their glow set a mesmerizing stillness as we sang "O Holy Night."

After church, we drove through neighborhoods decorated in bright Christmas lights. My parents encouraged us to search the skies for Santa. My dad would usually spot him first, then we'd strain and squint and eventually we'd see him. That was our cue to head home. It meant that Santa had just left our house.

We'd arrive and have to wait in the car while my dad went in and turned on the Christmas lights. He'd wave us in and we'd rush up the sidewalk. The scene that greeted us was magical. Santa had arrived one day early----------just for us. I always felt so special.

Christmas morning we would bundle up in snowsuits and venture into the outside air. I remember my enchantment with the snow. I remember catching snowflakes on my tongue and making angels in the fresh powder.

We pulled our sled for blocks to a local snow hill where all the neighborhood families congregated for a full day of community sledding. I remember coming home with just enough energy to build 'Frosty'. We would improvise with rocks for his eyes, a carrot for his nose and a stick for a smile.

By Christmas night I was exhausted, but would stay awake as long as I could. I didn't want to let go of the wonder of the Christmas season. I wished everyday could be Christmas.

I'm much older now (OK, much, much older), but I still think Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year.

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