L.G. O’Connor is a member of the Romance Writers of America. A corporate strategy and marketing executive for a Fortune 250 company, she writes adult urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. She is currently working on the third book in the Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, Book of Four Rings, for publication in 2015. In addition, she is writing an adult contemporary romance series set in Morristown, New Jersey. L.G. lives a life of adventure, navigating her way through dog toys and soccer balls and loaning herself out for the occasional decorating project. When she’s feeling particularly brave, she enters the kitchen . . .
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This time of year has always held a special place in my heart, starting from when I was a very small child. Knowing that not everyone is fortunate or has the luxury of happy childhoods, I treasure those moments for their magic and the gifts of love that I’ve found there.
One of my earliest memories of Christmas is of lying on my back under a silver Christmas tree, and watching the colors change from blue to green to red and back again as the color wheel spun alongside it. I was either three or four years old, I can’t be sure. All I know is that my grandmother was still alive that year. I’ve never forgotten the pure and unbridled love that I had, and still have, for her. That special relationship is why “The Little Match Girl” still raises a lump in my throat, and why I’m so very passionate about angels.
As the oldest of my siblings, I’m the only one who had the special gift of my grandmother’s love, and some of the warmest memories I have are from my pre-Kindergarten memory. My mother has a picture of me in our family album as a toddler with said silver tree in the background, sitting next to a life-sized doll on a chair in my grandmother’s apartment. Sadly, I’m not sure what became of that doll, but I still have three very special presents given to me by my Grandmother before she passed away the summer before my fifth birthday:
• A thermal blanket she gave my mother when I was an infant which became my security blanket as a child and stayed under my pillow until I left for college.
• An illustrated book of fairy tales that survived myself and my two sisters. One of the stories is “The Little Match Girl”.
• A standing Santa Claus in a red felt suit with a white cottony beard and kind blue eyes.
Every year, my mom used to put Santa out with the other Christmas decorations, and when I was old enough she gave him to me to keep. When I graduated from graduate school, my mother gave me my grandmother’s 1920s filigree bracelet with sapphires that I always loved, and a few years ago, my father gave me my grandmother’s Certificate of U.S. Citizenship dated 1932, thirteen years after she arrived at Ellis Island from Hungary. Jolly and loving, my love for her lives on in my heart. Yet, I’m happy to have these few items as evidence that she once lived outside of my memory.
Growing up in the years before electronics, video games and the internet (yes, I’m kind of old), the holiday season started the moment the Sears-Roebuck catalog arrived in the mail in September. Did I lose anyone on that one? 🙂 Anyway, I’d spend the next three and a half months meticulously crafting my Christmas list. The things I picked were ones that lent themselves to using the imagination. Dolls and costumes were my favorite. Then the next phase would kick in around Thanksgiving when all the movies and Rankin-Bass Christmas specials would start on television: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to name some. Even back then, I loved the romance between Kris Kringle and Jessica in SCCT. Remember when the birds pull the ribbons out of her hair and she sings next to the fountain? *deep sigh*
From there, the season would march on toward Christmas, building into a frantic crescendo of excitement by the time Christmas Eve hit—the most magical night of the year to me as a kid. The best years would be when my family would go next door to my best friend Cheryl’s house after Christmas Eve mass to have dinner and exchange presents. Most years, we would find “A Christmas Carol” on television and sit down to watch it when we couldn’t possibly eat another bite. We did that up until the year Cheryl and I left for college, and then on and off for years afterward.
Her parents are both gone now but even up until eighteen months ago when her Dad died at the age of eighty-two, my family always included him in our Christmas Eve gatherings. Never having grandchildren of his own, he lavished my nieces and nephews with presents and was filled with gratitude for being included. Watching my sisters and I grow up into successful adults touched him deeply. He swelled with pride at our accomplishments. We considered him a part of our family.
In high school, it was no longer toys or games that I wanted, but rather a look from a particular boy who attended my church and youth group. On at least three Christmas Eve’s, I secretly searched for his family in the pews and drew my family to the row directly behind them. He was shy with a nice face. Green eyes and dark hair. A light scar on his cheek did nothing to lessen his attraction in my eyes. We met in ninth grade at the age of fourteen. My love for him when unrequited throughout high school, even though we became friends and I wished with all my strength that he would notice and ask me out. What I would’ve done for the feel of his hand in mine or just one kiss… Little did I know that my wish would someday be granted. While home on break from college during my junior year, I met him out at a bar one night. We chatted and he ended up driving me home. I finally got my kiss. As fate would have it, we never saw each other again. Even then, I realized he could never live up to my dreams. Yet, I offered my gratitude to the universe for a wish delivered. A couple of years later, my mom cut out his wedding announcement from the local paper. In my heart, I wished him every happiness, knowing mine would be found someday with someone else.
After all these years, and all the presents given and received, the part that sticks out most about my favorite memories of Christmases past has been the love. The best thing about that? No one is too poor to give it. There’s no budget you need to live within, and no bills to pay in January. It’s free, and you can’t forget it at home. It lives inside your heart. You can give away as much as you want. You’ll always have enough. To me, love is the most precious gift anyone can ever give or receive. Don’t you agree?
Blessings and happiness to all now and throughout the new year. Journey forth in peace and love…
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