Christmas Gouda

I remember Christmas as a little girl.

The magic that hung in the air, gossamer threads of silk and sparkles, trailing down alongside fluffy snowflakes. The heavy quiet that blanketed the earth, muffling all the normal sounds except the train horn, tinny and surreal.

The night I stood in the parking lot outside White Elephant with my four brothers, as our parents finished up some secret shopping inside, chancing to look up and to this day believing, I saw Santa and his sleigh gliding through the starry December sky.

The delight in organizing and sorting the presents under the fresh cut tree. Wearing out my arm Christmas Eve looking at my watch, counting the hours until evening festivities could officially commence. Helping my dad bring in firewood, the sleeves on his dull-gray down coat whiskering against my cheeks as he handed me armfuls of splintery logs. Laying on our backs in front of our lava rock fireplace, teeny feet propped up in front of the blaze.

Carefully setting out cookies and milk. The disgruntled napkin note from Santa the year we plain forgot the cookies.

Caterwauling carols around the piano.

The complex plans my brothers and I concocted to catch Santa, only to fail miserably as sleep overcame our young, tired brains.

Snowy, horse-back rides on top of fire-breathing mounts who had the winter sprints in them.

The popcorn balls, the beautiful gingerbread horses, the mouthwatering enchilada dinners, the plates of treats from our family friends, the little blue 3-wheeler slinging our gleeful little selves around like multi-colored Michelin men. Cinnamon rolls! MORE cinnamon rolls! Igloos, visiting and singing to the important people in our lives.  And who can forget to mention the popcorn cans with three sometimes four different kinds of popcorn.

Okay. Now, with all the romanticized memories out of the way, I can now say Christmas is actually like a great big block of cheese. I like gouda cheese, personally, so we will now refer to this whole Christmas experience as Christmas Gouda.

Christmas Gouda starts out soft, lovely, creamy. The wonderous delight of new Christmas, experienced in firsts and monumental surprises. Then as the Christmas Gouda ages, it gets a little sharper, a little harder; you realize some years are lean years for your hard-working parents, the magic of Santa Claus wears thin, as you start receiving practical gifts and you sleep a little less soundly. Then one day you realize YOU are the one in charge of Christmas. Oh the edge that puts on the Christmas Gouda.

In the first years of marriage, I struggled with Christmas. I bemoaned not feeling like I was in the “Christmas Spirit”, blaming the lack of feeling Christmassy on a myriad of things: the 75-degree weather and palm trees in southern California, the sandstorms of Arizona, the selfish “I haven’t been home to MY family’s Christmas in the FIVE years we’ve been married!”, to being back in the Great Northwest only to be so dirt poor that Christmas was an insurmountable feat.

And then this year, here in the mucky, sticky swamps of East Texas, I have found myself overflowing with the Christmas spirit.

I found the magic in the sparkly eyes of my children as they counted and organized their presents under the tree, opening the door for the mailman, trails of cookie crumbs everywhere because no great mother can say no to “More ‘mistmas ‘tooties Mommie?”

I felt the magic as we sang Christmas songs in the silliest voices we could muster, the innocent questions about baby Jesus, the homemade snow machines, the letters to Santa that made Mike Honcho and I laugh and cry, in turn. The all-important job of plugging in Christmas lights, and carefully opening the doors on the advent calendar.

The slightly suspicious inquiries about Santa and his mysterious abilities. The nightly countdown. The daily begging to open just one present early. The Netflix fire (because no one in their right mind would light a fire in the rental house fireplace.) Surpassing the surgeon general warning for daily consumption of candy canes…

I began this year’s Christmas season with earnest intentions of becoming the catalyst for creating the most magical memories possible for my sweet babies. In doing so, I discovered my Christmas Gouda has aged in the finest manner. It only will get better with time, as I continue to hone our traditions and make more layers of memories.

I love Christmas Gouda.

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