The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there! 

The big day is almost here! I can still remember the anticipation that permeated my childhood home as the December days seemed to drag by so slowly. My younger brother and I would wake up before dawn on Christmas morning and peek into the living room to see if Santa had visited. When we found that he had, indeed, been to see us, we’d run back into my parents’ bedroom and wake them up with squeals and laughter, jumping on the bed trying to get them up and moving. We never understood why they weren’t as excited as we were about getting up to investigate our treasures!

As the years passed, some of the magic faded, and instead of waiting until Christmas morning, we’d start earlier in the season, trying to find our treasures hidden in closets and under beds. I felt rather victorious whenever I would discover my gifts ahead of time, but it didn’t take long to realize that there’s no fun in knowing everything, so I stopped snooping around as much.

For kids, Christmas is all about the gifts. The only thing better than receiving gifts as a kid is seeing the holiday through the eyes of your own children. The memories of Christmas with my baby girl are among my most favorite! The sweet flannel jammies, the wonder in her eyes when she would see all the pretty lights and her excitement to receive gifts.

She’s a lot like her mama, though, in that she’s not a morning person. Being an only child, there wasn’t a sibling with whom to anticipate the gifts under the tree, and for several years we had to wake her up to come see what Santa brought. We have old videos of her sweet, sleepy, precious little self coming down the hall into the living room to discover her treasures. There was none of the whooping and hollering like my brother and I would exhibit. She would quietly examine each item and turn to us with a sleepy grin to comment on each item.

Once, she climbed onto her new bike, and proclaimed “It fiths me. And it haths pom-pomths.” Oh, how I love those sweet memories. When she was a little older, my parents came down one night on Christmas Eve to help us with a sneaky surprise for her. My mom took her to our bedroom and read stories to her until she fell asleep. While across the hall in her room, her dad and my dad put together a sweet little canopy bed. After it was assembled, mom and I adorned it with all the frilly bedding items. I still remember what it looked like, even all these years later. Once we were certain she was sound asleep, her daddy moved her into the new bed and tucked her in nice and snug. The following morning, when we went to wake her up, at first she didn’t even notice the bed. But once she did, she loved it so much… but not nearly as much as the idea that Santa had picked her up and moved her into her new bed!

She’s all grown up now and has enjoyed watching her own children over the holidays. For me, watching the grandchildren at Christmas has been so much fun! There are three of them, so for several years, the whooping and hollering was abundant! One year I wasn’t feeling the magic and wasn’t even going to bother putting up a tree. My friend DJ finally talked me into it, telling me those babies needed a tree! She was right. Seeing them gazing at the tree did wonders for my heart.

They are older now, and while Christmas is still fun they have come to realize that it’s not what’s under the tree; it’s who is around the tree. There aren’t as many stockings hung by the chimney this year, as we are missing my dad and my uncle. There are moments when the grief seems to strangle us as we navigate through the holidays without them.

Having the kids (teenagers!) around helps us see that life goes on, and we will embrace all that the season brings. For those around our tree this year, though we miss our men, we acknowledge the reason for the season and celebrate the joy that the birth of the Christ child brings.

From our house to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas!

Cathy Watkins Bennett is a Barrow County native and a graduate of Winder-Barrow High School. Send comments about this column to bencath@aol.com.

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