A Holiday Memory

It’s holiday time at The Cliffhanger – latest column is out now!

By Jennifer Schleich

Whether you are two or ninety-two there is a magical quality to the holiday season.

Snow, caroling, hot chocolate, twinkling lights and greeting cards arriving in the mail all add up to a heightened feeling of expectation. Perhaps it’s the remembered anticipation of gift opening echoing across the years from your childhood. Maybe you delighted in pulling the huge cardboard box full of special decorations out of the crawlspace and helping your mother string them up. Maybe you are recalling the happy arrival of snow-covered guests at the doorway. Memory is a powerful thing.

Even to this day the smell of clementines makes me think of Christmas. As soon as they start arriving in the stores I get a little flutter of excitement in my gut. The moment when my kitchen is infused with the smell of that simple orange fruit is the moment when I know Christmas is coming. The two are invariably tangled in my mind.

I don’t think my mom had saught out to make clementines a Christmas tradition for me – I’m not even sure they are for her – but this tiny, seemingly insignificant fruit with its sweet citrus smell has permeated my memories for as many years back as I can recall.

Like those pastel chocolate party mints, having our front window painted in a holiday scene, the local Santa Claus parade, or visiting my best friend’s house on Christmas Day evening. The magic of the holidays is wrapped up in our happy memories of our oft-repeated activities.

While I was updating my son’s baby book the other day I leafed back through the pages and came to rest on his first Christmas. At the very bottom of the page, printed in neat black letters was a short phrase, followed by a gaping blank space, “Christmas traditions we started…”

I closed the book. That blank space is an annoyance, but I can’t for the life of me think of something with which to fill it. Any holiday traditions that will become important to him are ones waiting to be shaped over many years of his childhood. Maybe someday when he’s older, when he has memories of holidays past, I will know what to write. As for now, it must remain blank. I don’t believe traditions are things that you purposely create; I don’t believe they can be forced.

Traditions are funny like that: taking shape slowly, over time, beginning without intention or importance, and eventually becoming essential to our experience.

Merry Christmas from me to you, and whatever holiday you celebrate, may it be great, safe, and full of love.