By Heather Bremer
For The Herald Bulletin
I remember Grandma hanging her handmade ornaments on the branches of my grandparents’ tiny tree. I remember how she delicately nestled the kissing Santa and Mrs. Claus figurines into the folds of her snow-white tree skirt flecked with glitter. I remember the ceramic tree in the opposite corner of the room, the one with the tiny bulbs my siblings and I loved to rearrange.
There were plates of Grandma’s decorated sugar cookies and two or three pies. There were candles that Grandpa placed in the windows. And there were aunts, uncles and cousins, who spent every minute we weren’t eating at play.
This was Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa Schwartz’s house.
I remember Dad driving through a snow-covered countryside into town so we could see houses decorated to the nines in lights. I remember Mom fixing smores in the fireplace and rushing one or two flaming confections to the sink to be extinguished. I remember my brother’s wonder at a brightly lit tree shining in the morning darkness, surrounded by presents of all shapes and sizes wrapped in papers of all colors.
There were pajamas at the door, left by the Christmas Fairy as a bribe/threat to stay in bed. There were warm cinnamon rolls that Mom had ready before the first gift was unwrapped. There were lottery tickets that Dad stuffed in the stockings to add a little more excitement to the day’s festivities.
This was Christmas Eve and Christmas at Mom and Dad’s house.
I remember walking the beach with Mom and feeling the waves rush over my toes. I remember putting Christmas lights on a palm tree and a third-floor balcony with our roommate, Dusty. I remember a condo filled with two families just getting to know each other.
There were awkward moments when traditions clashed. There were smiles all around when my first Christmas gift from my fiancé couldn’t have been more perfect. And there were discussions about our impending nuptials that would bring our families together forever.
This was Christmas our first year in Florida. And this will be Christmas this year.
There won’t be many presents. Stockings stuffed full of goodies and, yes, lottery tickets will be all Santa’s left us. There won’t be a giant tree covered in twinkling lights. Its grandeur will be replaced by the simplicity of a small albeit beautiful spruce. There won’t be a beach. In fact, I’m hoping for snow.
But we’ve never needed the presents. Or the tree. Or an exotic locale.
Because family is what is important. This year more than most.
It’s been a week since too many families in Newtown, Conn., were robbed of the opportunity to create a lifetime of memories with their precious children. There will be presents left unwrapped, an empty seat at the dinner table, tears at the sight of a lit tree. Sadness has overwhelmed the season of joy.
So, remember those families as you sit down to dinner next to an aunt you can’t tolerate. Or when mom leaves the plastic wrap on the turkey. Or when you don’t get everything on your wish list.
Then remember just how lucky you are and cherish every moment.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
Heather Bremer, a former Herald Bulletin reporter/designer, writes a weekly column on movies, television and pop culture. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.