My first gift arrived the day after Thanksgiving, a brand new turntable to cue up the holiday season. I immediately began to rediscover my collection, an amalgam of inherited vinyl with hidden memories entrenched in each cardboard jacket. It’s been years since I have lowered the stylus on these oldies but goodies and their revival served as a tactile connection to so many celebrations before. I began with my all-time favorite, Bing Crosby’s “Merry Christmas” a 10-piece Decca record set released in 1945. I placed “White Christmas” on the platter first, and as the tonearm made its way from the outer rim each tick, pop and scratch served as a nostalgic musical journey.
For a long time, I found the holiday season to be exasperating, a month-long sentence celebrating forced-giving, over-consumption and congestion - I somehow taught myself to get worked up about the whole thing. Once I separated myself from the commercial nature of the season, stopped imagining a perfect holiday and quit comparing Christmas present to Christmas past, I was once again filled with joy. I navigate Christmas marketing cautiously, remembering to focus on what truly does make this the “most wonderful time of the year.” For me, it’s meeting folks like the “Friends of Suffield” who volunteer as Santa’s helpers, spreading cheer through organizing personalized home visits from St. Nick himself. People like Siv Harvey - who owns the Scandinavian Gift Shop in Ellington - serve as a beautiful reminder of the beauty in tradition and we stopped by her special store to discover something new. Presents made with love are the best kind. In Stafford, we discovered the art and sentiment of handmade gift giving at The Inspiration Station and then traveled to East Longmeadow to bake holiday treats at Pete’s Sweets.
With the “Andy Williams Christmas Album” playing, I excavated my storage boxes from the basement, each tote filled with memorable holiday keepsakes. Like my record collection, this curated collection came from my parents, grandparents and various loved ones. These mostly-old (and sometimes ugly) decorations share a memory as I hang each sentimental ornament that is symbolic of the holiday season. I cherish them all - even my grandma’s creepy vintage Santa figurines - because I feel like the keeper of my family history, the story keeper. I remember whose ornament was whose and the near lore of each object. But with them, each year there’s a new story to tell as I perpetually add to the menagerie of my holiday hangables; it’s the process of remembering my endings and celebrating new beginnings.
Somewhere in the whirlwind of crazy, make room for the magic this year, embracing the days ahead as a wonderful keepsake that you’ll take with you from year to year. However you celebrate this season, I hope your days are filled with simplistic joys that spark warm memories.