I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year. I’m not even in an area where the season changes, usually still in my shorts and flip-flops if I’m wearing shoes at all. However, there’s something about Christmas that yanks me back into my childhood like nothing else. If I play Loretta Lynn’s To Heck With Ol’ Santa Claus, I can close my eyes and smell my mom’s cooking and hear my dad screaming at the football game on the screen. I can see our pets back then scurrying around the house or my sister rattling the gifts to find out what’s inside. Just the sound of a song can send me down memory lane, and it's a great way to relive the past.
I think that’s why I wanted to write stories that are set during the holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas. I can relate to Josh Rayburn in my Bull Creek world when he told Alanna he wanted to make Christmas special for her. And he fought for that to prove to her the past didn’t have to rule her life, and that the present could be just as grand.
However, part of him succumbed to her negativity for a brief period. Here’s a clip from Sassy Claws.
Josh watched his friend cross the yard for a moment before sighing and lookingdown into the storage tub his mother sent. Dimitri was right. Josh squatted down and ran his hand over the metallic bulbs. The ornaments were ancient, faded, and some were even chipped, a couple glued together after the wind shook them loose from where they hung over the years, causing them to fall to the hard ground. Still, they were more than store-bought glitter; they were a step back into the past. He could hear his sister and him laughing, feel the snowball hitting him upside the head, feel the cold seep into his fingertips, and smell the wood burning from the fireplace inside the house. If he closed his eyes, he knew he could open them again and see days otherwise faded from memory. With everything they had endured over the past two years, he clung to these happy memories like a lifeline to his sanity. He wanted to share that lifeline with Alanna, bring her further into his world. Why couldn’t she see that? While she kept her life a secret, he wanted to share everything about his life with her, and this was part of that.
With a deep breath, he opened his eyes again and pulled out the next set of decorations, three tiny Christmas trees draped in white lights for the front yard. He smiled, remembering how they would wind up buried in snow almost every year back in Draven Falls. This year, they would probably be buried in pine needles.
Chuckling, he stood back up, looking around for the perfect spot in the yard for them. As he glanced around, he once again realized how extremely different Bull Creek was from his hometown of Draven Falls. The driveway was dirt and gravel, as were most of the roads. The oak and pine trees were dried brown or bare altogether, the palm trees drooping dead fronds, and the grass a wilted vomit-beige. Josh sighed. How could he make this place ever look like Christmas? “I’m wasting my time,” he said, sorrow wrapping its heavy hand around his heart and weighing down his shoulders. He allowed the decoration in his hand to slip back into the box. “Maybe Alanna has the right idea. You can’t bring a winter wonderland to a place that still has temperatures in the eighties.” He shook his head. “I’m getting a beer.” With slumped shoulders, he headed for the front door and the air conditioning.
This phrase right here - With everything they had endured over the past two years, he clung to these happy memories like a lifeline to his sanity – is what I cling to every year.
When I was younger, my mother used Disney as her escape. When things threatened to overwhelm her, she would pack us in the car and head to the Magic Kingdom for a day of fantasy and laughter. Christmas does that for me. Bright lights, cheerful decorations, and fun gifts. Festive music fills the house while the smells of baking and fancy dishes waft through the air. Even the cats get excited as there’s now a tree or three to climb. And it takes me back to a time when I didn’t need to worry about anything.
So, this Christmas, revel in the memories that make you smile, perhaps even tear up. Put up the broken ornaments, listen to the old Christmas songs, turn off the lights, and just stare at the tree. There’s nothing more relaxing that will put you in the holiday mood faster, even with a snoring cat in your lap.
Until next time, happy reading,