Papa Bear

My Favorite Christmas Memories

Nothing can surmount my inner zealousness towards Christmas. Christmas is not just a holiday. Not just December 25th. Christmas almost certainly alters people’s lives to the point that their normal habits change for a few weeks to accommodate. Christmas has probably been the reason for some of the best memories of your life, maybe some painful ones as well. Christmas takes over your evenings with endless planning and scanning the internet for gift inspiration. Your weekends are consumed by retail store hopping from one sale to the next. Even Black Friday, a “holiday,” mostly associated with Thanksgiving, is actually a day to help prepare for Christmas. Then there’s the baking, cookie making and decorating, hanging lights on your house, putting up the tree and decorating it, and make sure you also decorate your entire house. The endless tasks of preparation excite me, and it only builds as we get closer. My joy is a product of my parents and my entire family almost making Christmas as special as possible every year. Now Alex and I get to do that same thing for little Savy Bee. 

Today I want to reflect back of some of my favorite Christmas memories and try to relive those moments with everyone who reads my wife’s wonderful blog. I hope you all get involved in the chat on Insta or Facebook as well when this gets posted online. I would love to hear some of your favorite Christmas memories. 

My Most Memorable Christmas Gift

Every year when I start getting into the Christmas spirit, the first gift or first memory that pops into my mind is the red bunk bed set I got when I was five years old. I say five years old, but I’m not 100% sure if that is true. I think I just say that for my own need to have an age associated with the bunk bed. I slept upstairs and the way it worked was mom and dad would wake me up in the morning and I would emerge like it was Christmas morning! Pun intended. They would then go back downstairs, probably with one of those yellow polaroid cameras and I would come down the stairs slowly so they could see my giant look of surprise at all the gifts scattered about the living room and under the tree. Of course, they would be in all sorts of colorful wrapping paper and topped with bows. I will never forget the moment when I turned the corner on those steps back on 6th Street and saw the fire engine red bunk bed sitting in our living room. 

My parents had the bunk bed set up without the mattresses on it yet, so it was just bars and a ladder. The bottom bed was a double and the top a twin size. This bright red ladder attached to the front or along the side. Now, I was an only child at the time, so I really have no idea why I got a bunk bed. I honestly do not know my parent’s financial situation back when I was five, but I know they were probably intentional with spending. I ended up with a sister about a year later so who knows what was going on in their minds… As it turned out, I never did share that bunk bed. I made the bottom bed into a “dungeon” by hanging a blanket down from the top bed (Probably the only kid to ever think of that sweet move) and the top bed pretty much became a storage shelf. I thought about sleeping up there, but I was always too afraid I would fall off. 

An Unpredictable Christmas Tradition 

On Christmas day in 2009 it snowed 24.1 inches. I remember that year really well because I was about 23 years old and I had driven home for the holidays like I did every year, but this time I couldn’t get back home. I typically make a trip to Iowa on the Saturday before Christmas for another family Christmas get together and this year I couldn’t because the roads were so bad the city had closed the interstate. Closing the interstate is a pretty rare occurrence, not the kind of thing that happens every year. So if the interstate was closed and then we got 24.1 inches of snow on top of what we must of already had, it makes sense that I was stuck at my parents house for 10 days.   

The snow had piled so high it had completely consumed the fence between our yard and the sidewalk. Instead of a fence, all you could see was a ridge of snow that dropped off towards the sidewalk. I am wondering now if my dad scooped the sidewalk or not? I’m pretty sure I didn’t. My siblings and I packed on all of our snow gear (I hadn’t met my future wife yet who would eventually teach me how to properly dress for winter) so I was probably wearing jeans and two hoodies, and we built a snow fort that even an adult could crawl around inside. We built tunnels with multiple entrances and caverns to store snowballs. The fort consumed our front yard. The snow was so tall it was going past my waist and even higher with the drifts. 

The best thing about that Christmas was my family played the boardgame Clue every night during those 10 days. Sometimes we played during the day too. We must have played 30 games of Clue and somehow it never got old. I think my brother could somehow play without writing anything down. I would try and listen to other people’s guesses and then if a card was revealed to them, I would attempt to guess what it could be and cross something off my list. Somehow someone would start to make a run for the middle of the board to turn in their guess and win the game and I would be thinking, “I’ve only narrowed it down to the person, two rooms, and I still have five possible weapon choices left!” I really don’t understand how I never seem to know as quickly as everyone else. I look forward to playing Clue every year now. 

The Lightning Round – AKA – Random Christmas Favorites            

  • The time Jarret got me a hat with “PeaceBack” stitched into it -I was saying peace back a lot back then. It was a hashtag I was really trying to push and it came with me throwing up the peace sign, but I had to remember to pull it back towards my face, so it didn’t look huge in the picture. I loved the hat and it was a pretty thoughtful gift. 
  • The time we had Christmas at my Grandpa and Grandma Berthold’s house way back when I was a little kid. A lot of extended family was there that year and the presents placed between the wall and behind this super long sectional coach. The coach was probably five feet from the wall, and I was a little kid, so it felt like this never-ending passageway of presents! 
  • The time Alex and I drove an hour both ways from my parents on Christmas Eve night because I left my contacts back at our apartment and one of them popped out and I couldn’t see!
  • The time when Danielle got me my first Nutcracker and thus was the beginning of my collection!
  • The time Dad got back surgery and we had Christmas in the hospital! Love you Dad. 
  • The time I stayed up all night wrapping presents with Mom and we had to stay in different sections of the house and kept meeting in a safe room to pass back and forth tape and scissors so we wouldn’t see the gifts we got for each other!
  • The time I found out the Santa Clause that had been coming to our family Christmases’ for years and years got arrested for something regarding… well, I can’t say for sure so, I will just say something ironic. 
  • The time Sydney was finally old enough to be on her own team during Monopoly at Grandma Samson’s house. My youngest sister Sydney is 13 years younger than me and for some reason I felt like she wasn’t old enough to play without being on someone’s team!

All Those Sleepless Christmas Eve Nights

I become an insomniac every Christmas Eve night when it came to bed time. Ever since I can remember knowing what Christmas morning meant and what it felt like to wake up the next morning erupting with excitement and an uncontainable sense of curiosity of what the day would bring, I have stayed up for what feels like all night tossing and turning. I have tried to count sheep, I think about the gifts I have made for friends and family, seeing everyone that I haven’t seen for a while, eating all the fun food, and then I realize it’s only been a few minutes. I can hear myself breath. I finally sleep and dream and wake back up again and somehow, it’s only been an hour. I get up to use the restroom and get a drink of water then return to bed feeling as awake as I did during the previous afternoon. I roll over and the creaking sound is painfully loud. And then… 

A couple years ago I finally conceded that I wasn’t going to wake up on Christmas morning at my parent’s house with my siblings every single year, forever. For the last few years my little family has been creating our own traditions on Christmas morning here at our own home. But, back before that, I would go home and spend Christmas Eve night at my parents with all three of my younger siblings, mom and dad, and possibly my then girlfriend Alex and maybe a few other significant others over the years. Of course, we would play Clue. Our family always sat around in the living room and visited. Everyone tells stories and gets caught up on what’s going on in everyone’s lives. Dad does something funny and Mom makes sure everyone has enough comfy food. As things start to wind down my siblings and I would retreat to a living room to watch a movie together. It’s always a challenge to pick something that everyone can agree on. Everyone finds a comfy spot and settles in for the night. For the longest time I tried to make everyone sleep on the floor of the living room so we would all be together. As my siblings got older, they started to demand to sleep in their own bed. Especially the ones that still lived at home. I always gave in… I think.  

What’s in a Memory? 

I’ll never really be able to fully describe all of the wonderful memories that pop into my head when I reflect back on all of our shared Christmas experiences. They are like five second highlights reals and from a child’s perspective. I realize now as an adult; most things aren’t what they seem to a child. Perhaps things aren’t what they seem to an adult and the way children see the world is the way the world truly is. Perhaps it’s the adults that are blind to things. All I know is that when I try to go back and experience something that I can distinctly remember experiencing or watching or doing as child, it feels very different as an adult. A lot of my memories are simply looking at the window as family members arrive to the gathering one by one. First, I would get excited, then I would think about what I was going to say as they walked in the door. I would try to greet them at the door when the biggest smile and say, “Merry Christmas!” and of course, they would say, “oh my gosh! Merry Christmas!” right back. 

One year my parents got me a CD/Radio tower thing. The middle tower could hold six CDs, I think it had two spots for tape cassettes, a built-in subwoofer, and it had a radio built in. The other two towers were the speakers and they were attached by wires with about a three-and-a-half-foot wingspan of wire for “surround sound.” I was probably 13 years old. I got a couple new CDs, Limp Bizkit and Creed. I listened to them on repeat as my family members started gathering in the basement. This was back in the first house my parents had in the country. No one else would have had the same perspective I had that year. I distinctly remember deeply thinking about life what it all meant as my aunts and uncles and grandparents were chit chatting away in the basement. 

I love the idea of a shared memory. Whenever you have an event with a fairly good-sized group of people, you are going to get so many different perspectives on what actually happened. No one really remembers the event the same way. Especially when you have enough people there that you’ve got different groups of people spread out all over the house. You might have someone spilling pop on the new carpet in the basement and someone stressing over the overcooked casserole. Maybe someone clogged the toilet and is trying desperately to unclog it before anyone notices how long they’ve been in the bathroom. Sharing a memory is about reflecting back on a particular moment when those people and trying to soak up as much as you can about what you might have missed. Everyone puts the puzzle together and each person has their own missing piece to contribute.  

Savannah’s First Christmas

This year is going to be Savannah’s first Christmas and it is time that Alex and I do everything we can to fill her with the wonderful joy that is this holiday. I know this holiday is about more than gifts and Santa Clause and we want to teach little Savy Bee all about Jesus and what this holiday means for him as well. I didn’t want to focus on the religious side in this blog , so I’ll leave that for another time. Christmas is all encompassing for me – it is a holiday with a really big culture and as I mentioned in the beginning, it’s about spending time with family and making memories. That is what I want to share with Savannah. I cannot wait!

Happy reading and happy parenting! I hope you enjoyed today’s post and please reach out and share your stories with us too!