I remembered how we were a poor family by todayís standards. We lived in my Grandmaís old house that was a combination of two shanty cars and several other rooms that my Dad later built on. Yet, we were so rich in all the important things in life.
I remembered getting up on a bitingly cold, December morning and watching my Dad build a fire in the stove. I remembered pulling on my oversized winter coat that had been my older brotherís and warming myself by the fire before heading outside with my Dad and brothers to chop down a Christmas tree. I remembered Dad letting me pick the scraggliest, ugliest looking tree over my brothersí objections and how the limbs could barely support the ornaments and lights when we decorated it. I remembered watching my grandmother, "Nanny," slowly pulling her ancient Nativity scene out of a box and putting it under the tree with such reverence, gentleness, and tenderness. I remembered too the kiss she gave the baby Jesus before placing him in the manger.
I remembered listening to my Mom sing along with the Christmas carols on the radio while she cleaned the house. I also remembered the beautiful look of pure peace and happiness she would get on her face whenever she sang, "Silent Night."
I remembered the note my Mom and Dad wrote for Santa and put on our front door, because I was worried that he would skip our empty house while we were at midnight Mass. I remembered as well trying to stay awake for the whole midnight service at our Church, but falling asleep on my Momís lap instead.
I remembered the Italian-American Christmas dinner where freshly baked bread was served along with the turkey, Pasta Fasul was served along with the mashed potatoes, and you could get Provolone cheese as well as pumpkin pie.
I remembered the eager anticipation of waiting to open my presents on Christmas morning. They were few in number and never very expensive, but they always brought joy to my young boyís heart. I remembered playing with them too for months and sometimes years to come.
Most of all, though, I remembered the unwavering love in that house. It made everyday feel like Christmas. It was there in our hugs and smiles, laugher and tears, arguments and agreements, triumphs and tragedies. Even when that house burned down, the love remained. It gave me a hint of the Love that God has for us all. With it we felt like the wealthiest family in the whole world.
Mom and Nanny have passed on to Heaven now, but the memories of their love at Christmastime and all through the year live on in my heart and mind. It is like what the great author Leo Buscaglia once wrote: "Love never dies as long as there is someone who remembers."
May your life be full of loving memories at Christmastime and always. And may you create new ones every single day. Have a Merry Christmas.