The Best Christmas Gift
I love Christmas.
I love what it commemorates—the birth of our Savior, which led to our redemption and the glory of Easter—and I love the special childhood memories it reawakens.
Let me tell you about one of them.
I grew up in a family that was richer in love than material blessings. My dad once worked three jobs to give us the kind of life he never had growing up in a cottage without running water or electricity in rural Ireland. And he was all in with my mom’s plan to make every Christmas one to remember for my brother and me.
During my younger years, we lived with my grandfather in an old two-story home with a slightly uneven floor on the second level, where my mom, dad, brother and I slept. On Christmas morning, my brother and I would wake before dawn and rouse my parents. After my dad checked to make sure Santa had visited, we made our way down the stairs, gaping into a living room lit only by the glow of colored lights from the tree as we took in the wondrous mound of presents waiting to be opened. The beauty and the bounty overwhelmed us.
What made this first glimpse extra special was the transformation in the living room. When my brother and I went to bed, it bore no sign of Christmas except for the empty tree stand. After we went to sleep, my mom and dad would set up the live tree, decorate it with lights and ornaments and real tinsel, and haul in all the presents from wherever they were stashed—because Santa brought our tree as well as our gifts. When my brother and I caught our first glimpse in the morning, it was pure magic.
Mom and Dad never faltered during the day, even though they had to be dead tired. Mom always made a wonderful dinner, and Dad assembled whatever toys needed to be put together. I have no idea how they called up the stamina to be so jolly and joyous after staying up half the night.
But they were both committed to creating treasured Christmas memories we would carry with us for always.
Of course, the true meaning of the day was never lost. A crèche was always front and center under our tree, and once dawn broke and all the presents were opened, we went to church. The carols that filled our house were also a reminder of the reason behind it all—Away in a Manger, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night.
It was a storybook kind of Christmas.
But times change…and so do traditions. I lost Mom suddenly fifteen months ago, and Christmas moved to my house last year. That’s when the truth hit home. The days when trees were decorated in the dark of night by loving parents…when wide-eyed children crept down the stairs to see what goodies Santa had brought…when our family circle was complete…were gone forever.
But some things remained the same.
Last year, the centerpiece of the day was still the birth of our Savior. The familiar carols remained part of my celebration, though I sang them as a soloist at our church’s midnight service. My Christmas dinner table was surrounded by family members. Dad continued his role as the beloved patriarch of our clan. God willing, all of that will be true this year, too.
While our holiday is different now, I’ll always have the memories of my magical childhood Christmases. In fact, the first Christmas after I married, I started a new tradition. On the last night before we take our tree down, I pause halfway up the steps to savor the view in our living room—and to remember the joy and magic my parents created for us on a shoestring budget all those years ago.
Looking back, I don’t recall many of the gifts that awaited me each Christmas morning. But I do remember the feeling of contentment and serenity, the sense of all’s right the world, that pervaded our home.
Most of all I remember the love that went into the creation of those special mornings…and filled our home every single day of the year.
That remains the best gift of all.
Postscript: I wrote this post earlier today. This evening, I went over to my mom and dad’s house to help my brother continue the long, slow chore of going through Mom’s things. Right on top of her dresser—which I’ve walked past many times over the last year—we found a laminated Family Circus cartoon from 30 years ago. It shows the mom and dad standing in the doorway watching the children open their presents under the tree, and the dialogue box says, “They won’t know till they’re gone, but the best gifts are the memories they’re making.” Was the timing of this discovery coincidental? Maybe. But it felt almost like a message from Mom—as if she’d been watching over my shoulder and smiling as I penned this post, pleased that I felt as she hoped I would about the legacy she and dad left us of wonderful childhood Christmas memories that are forever etched in my heart.
More about Sandpiper Cove:
Hope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities—including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn’t looking for love either—but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief? Yet wishing for things that can never be is foolish.
Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam’s help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different—and better—future planned for them than either could imagine.
Lauded by Library Journal as “a master at character development,” Irene Hannon welcomes readers back to this charming Oregon seaside village where hearts heal—and love blooms.
Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including One Perfect Spring, Hope Harbor, and Sea Rose Lane, as well as the Private Justice and Men of Valor suspense series. Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, two Carol Awards, two Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers’ Choice Award, three HOLT Medallions, two Booksellers’ Best Awards, and a National Readers’ Choice Award. She is also a two-time Christy Award finalist. In 2014 she was inducted into the Romance Writers of America’s elite Hall of Fame, and in 2016 she received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews for her entire body of work.