A Visit from the Ghost of Holidays Past
December, 2006 - Issue #26
Several years ago, a friend at work gave me the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It was a surprising Christmas gift, not because of what it was, but because of what it did.

I popped the CD into my computer on the spot and was greeted by the soft minor chords of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, accompanied by Chuck, Linus, Lucy and the rest announcing that "Christmas Time Is Here."

If you were born between 1960 and 1975, you know that song very well, regardless of your religious persuasion. Every year it found its way onto our television sets. It was the holiday anthem of our generation, announcing that soon we'd be seeing beloved family members, stuffing our faces and opening presents.

Our moms and dads roasted chestnuts with Nat King Cole. We had the Peanuts gang.

"I know there's already a day in June that owns the title of Memorial Day, but if there wasn't, I think we could rightly attach the name to any of the special days we'll celebrate between now and January 1."
I don't think I got much work done the day my friend gave me the CD. I was too busy exploring the corners of my past. The music, which I hadn't heard in years, lifted me out of the present. As soon as those first few notes chirped out of my speakers, I slipped into another time.

Holiday music is very good at that, isn't it? It takes us back. It captures today and preserves it for tomorrow like nothing else.

And it's not just the seasonal music. It's everything about the holidays. The smells of the mall. The feel of the cold air on your face. The taste of those spicy coffee drinks that only come around once a year.

The holiday season is thick with memories.

I know there's already a day in June that owns the title of Memorial Day, but if there wasn't, I think we could rightly attach the name to any of the special days we'll celebrate between now and January 1.

So what will you remember this year?

Perhaps you're already remembering last year's apple pie and turkey, or the Friday night you spent shivering just to watch your old high school football team in the playoffs.

What about that trip to LAX? Do you remember what it felt like to see that dear face smiling back at you - how you talked so much heading home you hardly noticed the traffic that stranded you on the 405 for hours?

You may even be remembering with a strange sense of fondness the debacle with the Christmas lights, or how your son tipped over the menorah and spilled candle wax all over the new shag.

You may even chuckle at the annual fights you have with Mom or Dad, and how you promised yourself then that next year would be different.

Or maybe the memories this year are more bitter than sweet. If this is your first holiday season without someone you love, they will be that much sharper ... so sharp, in fact, that they may cut.

Whatever your state of remembrance, let me offer you an observation, along with some neighborly advice.

In the same way that the ghosts of holiday seasons past will visit you this year, the ghosts you unleash this year will likewise visit you in the years to come.

The things you say - cheerful and cheerless - will find you some day. The time you spend with family, even the ones you'd rather avoid, will become the real presents you'll open years from now.

Oh, you'll still grumble about how following the so-called directions can turn the simple task of assembling a tricycle into an engineer's nightmare.

You'll still complain about the lack of parking at the mall and the Saturday you'll surrender to the in-laws.

But years from now, you'll wish for one more tricycle to assemble, one more friend to shop for and one more opportunity to get to know your spouse's side of the family.

Whatever the holiday season holds for you this year, embrace it. Whatever opportunities you have to create a good memory, seize them.

Your memory, always a diligent record-keeper, is working overtime right now. If it spends January to October filming in black and white, when November and December roll around, it uses color.

And it doesn't miss a thing. You'll be surprised and amazed at what you'll remember down the road. So make those memories good ones. You may find you've made them good for someone else along the way.

That, dear reader is the best memory of all.
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