Christmas memories, traditions are the true gift

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Christmas is just around the corner, and while people around me seem pretty excited and in the Christmas spirit, it hasn’t quite hit me yet.

This time of the year is tough for me. My mom’s birthday is Dec. 19, and this was her favorite time of year. I remember decorating the house with her, driving around town to look at the Christmas lights and the care she took in her plans to entertain. I miss her most at Christmas.

I also remember waking up Christmas morning to open presents. The presents stayed under our tree, but on Christmas, we’d pile all the presents in the car and take them over to my grandparents’ house so our family could open them together. We’d make a mountain of wrapping paper and gift boxes. There were a fair share of prank gifts. In fact, one of my favorite Christmas pictures is of my Aunt Jean opening a beautifully wrapped box only to find a single cigarette.

My cousins and I would play with our new toys and enjoy each other until it was time to eat. Sometimes, I would sneak into the kitchen while my grandma prepared a Christmas feast (though, truth be told, she cooked big meals like that every Sunday) and offer to help so I could lick the cake batter-coated spoon. We would eat dinner together, and I would get dressed and go to Goldsboro to have a similar experience with my Mimi and Dad’s side of the family.

In years like this, when I know I’m not going to be able to purchase the big-ticket items on my son’s wishlist (a 17-year-old’s list is short but incredibly expensive), I hope that he will one day be able to look back on his past Christmases and have more memories of the time spent with family than the presents he received.

Although I remember making pretty elaborate Christmas lists each year, I can’t recall too many of the actual presents.

As much as it may have mattered in the moment, over the span of a lifetime, it is all just stuff.

To all the moms and dads who want but are financially unable to give your kids the world, but manage to keep the lights on, a roof over your kids’ heads and clothes on their backs, you are doing an amazing job. If you are giving your kids beautiful memories at Christmas, that is enough. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

I’m sure the Nintendo I had to have (and quickly grew tired of) is now residing in a landfill, but I have passed down the traditions my mom had with me to my own family.

Even though it makes me sad sometimes, I am forever grateful to my mom for filling my life with love and memories. I’m thankful that she taught me the true meaning of Christmas and encouraged me to have a relationship with Christ that sustains me through hard moments.

I’m thankful to have another holiday to spend with my family and another chance to pull out those traditions and create new memories.

Those traditions and memories are the everlasting gifts of Christmas.

LaMonique Hamilton Barnes is a reporter and copy editor for The Wilson Times. She blogs about arts and culture at iamlamonique.com.