Keeping Up with Frank

My Favourite Christmas Memory

December 20, 2018

The other day, as I was running around the house, spilling coffee and looking for name tags for a pile of freshly wrapped presents, I heard a song that took me back to my childhood. Every year at this time, I set my home sound system to play an all-day stream of Christmas music. Each song touches me in a different way – some make me happy and others sad, leaving me feeling a bit like ‘tis the season of being manic. But for me, the Christmas spirit manifests itself as constant state of conflicted emotions. It’s possible that because Christmas songs play for only short period of time and only once a year, they stir up memories in a more profound way than everyday songs. Additionally, they have a direct connection to the holiday season we remember from our childhood. 

Christmas songs haven’t evolved much over the years – they just get rearranged and updated by the popular artists of the day. That familiar sense of melancholy you feel when you hear a certain Christmas song is likely a subconscious realization that those carefree childhood days are gone forever. Because really, the only ones getting truly excited for Christmas are the kids. 

The song that was playing the other day was Marshmallow World, sung by the iconic crooner, Dean Martin. His was one of the few Christmas albums we owned when I was a kid and we kept it in heavy rotation during the holidays. I idolized Dean Martin. 

Hearing it the other day brought up a special memory. It’s a happy song, describing what it’s like to be carefree on a sunny winter day, with fresh snow on the ground, and your favourite girl by your side.

Shopping at the Five and Dime

I was 12 years old and thought I was in love. Who knows? Maybe I was. Let’s say her name was Christine. (Actually, that was her name.) I had been crushing on her since Grade 6 and now that high school was around the corner, I felt the time was right to make my move. This was the third time I had fallen in love since Grade 2, but this time I was convinced it was for real.

I was working as a newspaper delivery boy, making $20 a month. And, at the time, it seemed to me there was no better way to spend my money than on the girl I wanted to impress. So, I took my crisp $20 (they paid you in cash in those days), and went to the only store in our small town: the Five and Dime. (Today, they’re called dollar stores, thanks to inflation.)

There weren’t a lot of great gift choices for the love of your life at the Five and Dime, but I did manage to find a pretty snazzy brush, comb and mirror set that set me back only half my monthly salary. I took it home, and in the privacy of my room, wrapped it as best I could. Then I got on my Mustang bicycle and began my journey to the other side of town – which took all of 20 minutes.

It was Christmas Eve and I recall the streets were nearly empty. When I arrived at Christine’s house, I was too shy (more like petrified) to knock on the door. So I placed the gift at her front door and made a run for it. She phoned me later to thank me and I remember doing a little dance and fist pumping as I talked to her. Mission accomplished! But as great as the call made me feel, that’s not the memory I hold most dear. 

Like an old black and white movie

Proving it’s the journey and not the destination that counts, it was the bike ride to her house that became the magical moment lodged in my memory. As if scripted, it had just started to snow and I remember being overcome by a feeling I don’t think I’ve felt since. I can only describe it as tranquil and peaceful, mixed with excitement and anticipation.

As you’ve likely noticed, when it first starts to snow, sound waves are absorbed at the snow’s surface, dampening volume. Riding through that nearly empty white landscape with every sound seeming like it was specifically calibrated for that moment made it feel like a scene from an old black and white Christmas movie. Combine that with the feeling of “being in love” and you have an unforgettable moment. It will never leave me, and that’s why I have kept it as my favourite Christmas memory. 

At the end of the day, life ends up being just a collection of memories. The trick is to try to have mostly happy ones. So, this season, put on some Christmas music, close your eyes and see what surfaces as your favourite childhood Christmas memory. 

Merry Christmas.

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