My sister Kim sent this pic to my family last night with a text that said, “Found this picture this morning and brought back such sweet memories of driving after Christmas service to Grandma’s house!” If you’re not in our family, I’m sure it just looks like an old photograph with some very odd hairstyles on display.
But to our family, this picture brings back a million memories.
That was our rescue poodle named Promise. He was ours for over 10 years. In our house full of girls, his fingernails were always painted red, poor guy. That Raggedy Ann doll I’m holding was my treasure, apparently all the way into my early teen years. She was a handmade, one of a kind, that I saved up all my money to buy at Silver Dollar City. (I still have her to this day) Those are all my sisters and I have troves of colorful memories of those girls when they looked just like this. It’s my Dad, looking snazzy in his “Member’s Only” black leather jacket. It’s my cousin Derek in the picture on the mantel. Those two silver-haired beauties? They’re my Grandma Vetter & my Great Grandma Rains. They’re icons of my childhood memories.
Oh all the stories I could tell, but I will stick with just this one.
It was Christmas Eve and because my dad was a minister, it meant any family traveling for Christmas happened after the Christmas Eve service at church. So we’d load up our giant van (equipped with a porta-potty, to ensure no stops would be made!) and make the five and a half hour trip, up to the Lake of the Ozarks, in the mountains of Missouri, to be with Grandma. The road trip felt long, but we found many ways to make it pass. We would play card games, we’d even play board games, we made hilarious Mad-Libs and snort-laughed until our bellies hurt while reading them back. Then on the final stretch, around and around the mountain, we’d sing at the top of our lungs, in an effort to keep ourselves from getting sick.
The closing chorus was always, without exception, “She’ll be coming around the mountain”.
I remember, like it was yesterday, the anticipation building in my heart to see my Grandma. I remember envisioning her in her “pink pajama” house dress waiting for us on the porch, white porcelain coffee cup in her hand, with Grandpa by her side, the yellow porch light shining and shimmering off her face. When we finally arrived, we couldn’t get out fast enough to race to the door to greet her with oodles of hugs and kisses. I remember the refreshing cold air on our hot skin, the smell of the leaves and the warmth of Grandma’s hug.
I honestly don’t remember any of the gifts on those trips.
What I remember is Grandma’s cackling laugh. I remember Great Grandma’s hilariously contorted face when we played her favorite card game, The Old Maid. I remember the way Grandpa served her and all of us while humming a tune or cracking a joke. He never once complained. I remember brisk walks around the neighborhood, and how much energy it took to keep up with Grandma. I remember burning the trash in the front yard at night.
ALL my memories are of the people.
I honestly don’t have a single memory of a table dressed to perfection, although I’m sure it was. I don’t remember the tree looking like it came straight from the Neiman’s catalog, and I’m quite sure it didn’t. I don’t remember anything about perfectly wrapped gifts with intricate bows.
I remember the love of my people and the time we spent together.
As you reflect on holidays past, I would imagine you have some memories of the same. Sure you might remember a few of the other details, but it’s the people and the love you felt (or may not have felt) that you remember the most. So while you’re wrapping up all the final details on your celebrations for the next couple of weeks, try to remember, it’s the people who matter most.
The memories of the people will survive all of the stuff.
If you do nothing else, go love your people this holiday season.
to more love,