Many mornings I go to Starbucks on the corner of Stuart and Robinson in the Fan. It is a quick walk to and from school and a quick start to a good day. The December decorations there include a big burgundy banner with these words in white:
“ I wish grown-ups could remember being kids.”
I smile at this. My third graders are happy to help me remember December. When I was in third grade my mother placed lemons, cloves, yellow tulle, and white satin ribbon in the center of the kitchen table. She explained to my brothers and sister and me that we would make pomanders for our teachers. It was hard. My fingers hurt from poking in the cloves and it took a long time. I’m sure I complained some. I know I may have wanted to stop. I remember pausing and staring out the kitchen window at the York River.
I often wonder why that is what I remember: sitting at that table with my hands sticky with lemon juice and my fingers sore from the sharp cloves, citrus in the air, looking out beyond the woods at the river. I didn’t even know what a pomander was! And I could not possibly have known… This. This is a Christmas memory.
Or this… I sat on a kitchen stool next to my grandmother in her pristine kitchen in West Virginia. With a cold stainless steel knife I learned how to frost shortbread Christmas Trees cookies with pale green icing. There wasn’t even a whisper of, “This is what you’ll always love about Christmas and this is what you’ll share with granddaughters.” Yet the memory has echoed through all these years.
The burgundy banner is a reminder in this season of hope and miracles. As I help my students name what is special about the holidays, not one child has mentioned what they want for Christmas or Hanukah. It is not what they talk about. They talk about making cookies, reading holiday books to younger siblings and cousins, setting the table, and helping with decorations. The task of getting ready for something special is the most special of tasks. What do children want? Robinson and Staeheli in Unplugging the Christmas Tree say children want and need “a relaxed and loving time with family; realistic expectations about gifts; an evenly paced holiday season; and reliable family traditions.”
Getting ready for something sacred is sacred, especially if it is done together. Now it’s your turn to remember. Then share what you remember with your child. Get ready. Together.