Stressing? Have a Coke and smile

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the hometown of my childhood, the manger scene sits in front of what was once the Opp Post Office but is now city hall. It looks like the one that sat in that spot when I was growing up and seeing it again on a cold winter’s night catapults me back in time.

That, I think, is what this season does for most of us, turns us toward that time when we lived in a place where visions of sugarplums danced in our heads. I remember standing in front of that manger scene studying the faces of Mary and Joseph and the smiling baby. Then looking down Main Street I saw it shining with colored lights strung across from light post to light post. A friend mentioned how she missed that cities don’t do that anymore because a drive through town became a ride under a canopy of Christmas wonder when those lights went up.

How sweet to recall the magic that came to life with the flip of a switch and the glow of big colored bulbs.

Seeing that manger also got me to thinking about how the emotions of Christmas change for us over the years. The expectation of what Santa has for us dominates our every waking hour when we are kids. We are bundles of excitement filled with boundless energy.

Then we grow up, and while there remains a hint of that childhood excitement about the gifts we might get Christmas morning, the focus is more on providing the gifts that go under the tree. We move from anticipating Santa’s bounty to being an active participant in making the time special for the little people in our lives.

And, that is fun because we know from our own experiences that the memories we create live for a very long time. We know that is not so much the gifts themselves because except for a few special things, the specifics of each Christmas blur into a general recalling of the feelings associated with the presents.

We understand that it is the spirit of the holiday that stays with us and returns each year even when childhood is long gone. It is a shift from the childlike fun of receiving to the amazing joy of becoming a giving adult. Interestingly, it is also when we learn that having someone unwrap your present with delight brings a wonderful feeling that is a gift to the giver.

Isn’t that the real wonder of this time of year? Isn’t it that focus on giving to others that makes us walk with a bit more spring in our step, smile a little more at everyone we meet and feel that connection with each other’s hearts that seems to go into hiding for much of the year.

I love my memories of Christmas-past, the sweet, sweet days of innocence when reindeers flew and baby Jesus smiled at me from a manger in front of the post office. However, I love the new memories I’m making as I look for special gifts for the people who bring so much happiness to my life. I thank them for allowing me the fun of giving them a gift and for their smiles as they unwrap what I hope creates a feeling that grows into a memory as sweet as the one that came to me as I drove through my hometown on a cold winter’s night.