During the holiday season and as time passes, many of us reflect on Christmas memories of the past.  Most of these memories were created in our homes.  Unlike my children who have lived in six different houses, I only lived in two homes during my childhood. The first Christmas memory that I can recall is when my family lived in a red brick, ranch style home in Forest Park, a suburb of Atlanta.  After dinner on Christmas Eve, my mom suggested that my dad take my sister and me out for a ride to look at Christmas lights.  Upon our return, I discovered, much to my amazement, that Santa had already been to my house because toys were piled underneath our artificial Christmas tree and our stockings were filled with goodies.  I bragged to all of my neighborhood friends that year that Santa had visited my house first. In retrospect, I imagine my parents did not want us to wake them at three o’clock Christmas morning ready to open gifts.

       Another Christmas memory that I recollect is when I was ten years old.  My family lived in a slightly larger ranch style house with a basement.  Knowing that her daughters would never step foot down there alone because it was dark and gloomy and being the artistic person that she was, my mom transformed the basement walls into a circus with giraffes, an elephant, and a seal balancing a ball on his nose.  This particular Christmas, I had asked for a stereo/record player combo, and my sister had asked for a watch.  However, my mom insinuated that we should not get our hopes up this year.  I sulked that Christmas season.  Our family tradition was to open one gift Christmas Eve, and the remainder of gifts were opened on Christmas Day.  My mom suggested that we open all of our gifts Christmas Eve, probably for the same reason Santa had arrived early that one year.  I was not happy about this decision until I found out that it involved a treasure hunt.  My sister and I had a small box to open that contained a note that sent us in search of multiple scraps of paper throughout our home.  We found notes in closets, cabinets, and drawers until we discovered a note directing us to the basement.  We raced down those stairs and into the familiar circus scenes we had grown to love.  Our note gave hints on where to find the next note.  We must have reached into what seemed like a hundred Mason canning jars until we found the last note, which said to go look under the Christmas tree where this hunt had begun.  I dashed past my sister up those stairs to find the stereo and watch that we had wished for underneath our familiar Christmas tree. 

       The last Christmas memory is indelible because it was my senior year of high school and would be the last Christmas that my family would spend under one roof.  Having only been asleep for a short time Christmas Eve, I was startled awake by people yelling.  I thought I was dreaming but quickly realized it was not a dream when my mom burst into my room instructing me to get dressed.  Either she was not making much sense, or I was still half asleep, but she kept saying something about a gas leak.  I ran to look out the bathroom window to see huge flames escalating into the winter’s night sky far in the distance.  Emergency personnel were evacuating our neighborhood, and my mom instructed me that we would need to drive all of our vehicles.  Because of the mass exodus from our neighborhood, I was not able to keep up with my parents’ cars, and there was no such thing as a cell phone at this time. In my baby blue VW Bug, I followed my neighbor to the police station.  Eventually, I was reunited with my parents, and, at three o’clock in the morning, we were assured that the gas leak had been contained and that we could return safely to our home.  For once, it was neither my sister nor I who awakened our parents too early on Christmas day.  My dad made us omelets for breakfast, and we opened gifts before going to bed as the sun was beginning to rise.  I was grateful our home was still intact, and it never looked more inviting than that eventful Christmas day.  As we approach this holiday season, my wish is that we would reflect on the houses that we have purchased and sold and on the fond memories that made them a home.