Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas memories

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas time."

~Laura Ingalls Wilder

A few pieces from my mother's Santa collection / Cindy La Ferle

I've written a few newspaper columns and magazine essays about the bittersweet task of sorting through your parents' belongings while preparing for an estate sale. The whole process takes you on a winding trail of memories, starting from your early childhood and leading you right up to the moment you find yourself putting price tags on your family heirlooms. 

After my mother died, I couldn't part with her collection of folk art Santas, shown above. A few of the pieces, including the signed chalkware, have collectible value. For the most part, though, I've kept the collection because Mom enjoyed displaying it every year at Christmas.

Religious origins aside, the Christmas season revolves around nostalgic traditions, rituals, and memories. Especially memories. I find comfort and happiness, for instance, in recalling favorite Christmas moments of my son's childhood -- watching him slide down the steps to witness the wonder of a new train set that Santa left under the tree -- as well as the Christmas mornings of my own childhood. 

But it's hard not to feel a void when we pause in the middle of holiday busyness and remember that the parents and grandparents who made our Christmas magic are no longer with us. 

"We honor our loved ones by talking about them," suggests Allison Gilbert, author of Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. "We also pay tribute by celebrating the loving relationships that remain." If you're struggling with a loss this season, I highly recommend Gilbert's book. It's packed with tips on how to preserve and honor family treasures and memories.

Now on display in our dining room, Mom's Santa collection inspires heartfelt conversations -- and reminds me of her generous spirit every time I look at it. 

One last note regarding today's quote: I have my mother to thank for introducing me to Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books when I was a child. I still recall unwrapping a new hardcover edition from the series one Christmas morning more than 50 years ago. ~Cindy La Ferle
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