Like most people, I’m usually rushing around trying to find that last gift or stocking stuffer or being gently harassed by my husband to finish our annual letter (he writes it; I add, correct, tweak...). This year is different. On December 1st, our son came from Phoenix so we celebrated Christmas early. The house was clean, decorations were up, gifts were wrapped, food stocked—all by the time he walked in the door. You could even see the top of my desk—a miracle that only happens when I can’t find something. Did we do all this for our son? Heavens, no. Well, not all because of him. He’s used to the chaos of our house. He knows when he visits there will be clean sheets on the bed and the bathroom will be cleaned. The rest...let’s just say House Beautiful won’t be setting up a photo shoot. This visit was different. He brought his girlfriend with him. We met her in October and spent a lovely week on vacation with her and our son. On future visits, she can see the “real” thing. Just not the first time.
With almost everything done early, I’ve had time to muse about Christmases past. Many come to mind as an adult. Not so many as a child. Except for the Christmas I was ten. That was the year I was convinced Santa would bring a puppy. While I didn’t believe in Santa anymore, I had to pretend because of younger siblings. And “Santa” knew I wanted a puppy. My parents repeatedly said “no pets”, but I just knew they were pretending. During the night, I was sure I heard a puppy whining. On Christmas morning, I looked and looked for a box big enough for that puppy. There wasn’t one. When I opened my gift, I found a Brownie Hawkeye camera.
A camera, not a puppy. Ten-year-olds don’t mask disappointment well. I’m sure my mom was hurt by my reaction, though I don’t remember her ever saying anything. But then, ten-year-olds are oblivious to how they affect adults. What I didn’t realize until much later was what a truly wonderful gift that camera was. I got over my disappointment in not getting that puppy. I took pictures of many, many things. Siblings, giggling girlfriends, vacations. Since then, I’ve always had a camera. From that Brownie Hawkeye to an Instamatic to a Canon SLR to the digital camera I have now. I’ve had movie cameras from a Super 8 to a camcorder and movie capability on that digital camera. I’ve recorded memories from the mundane to the momentous. I’ve taken enough slides and home movies to cure everyone of insomnia. The wonder of what that first camera started was brought to mind as I watched our son show his girlfriend the photo albums that captured his past.
As my brain reaches overload and kicks out old memories to make room for new, I’ll see a photo from long ago and the whole event comes right back. Not just what happened at the instant the shutter snapped but everything before and after. Trips with friends then with husband, our newborn children, their first Christmases/birthdays/schooldays/graduations, daughter’s wedding, grandchildren. Treasures.
Maybe Mom just thought a camera was a nice gift for a ten-year-old. Or maybe she knew it would lead to a lifelong fascination with capturing memories.
As I wish you and your families happy memories of this holiday season, I’m curious. What was your most memorable gift?