By Lisa Buchheit, RN, CCRC
What are your memories of Christmas? Mine are of traditions and time spent with family and friends. I was blessed that my mother truly savored every moment of the holiday. She worked overtime trying to create magic memories and excelled at not leaving out any detail. Every sense was stimulated by the holiday and preparing for it.
First it was the tree. Decorating and trimming the tree was always done as part of my father’s birthday celebration on Dec. 15, never before that date. My mother was an outstanding cook and hostess so the level of “YUM” she created was second to none. Our celebrations included the traditional Croatian dishes handed down by my grandmother. Frost a cookie? Heavens, NO! One decorates a cookie so that each was a work of art.
Music was at the center of the holiday, courtesy of our vinyl 33 rpm records. It was as if Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Burl Ives were residents at our home. Music played all day and mother sang along.
Mother would wake early and sit in front of the lit tree enjoying her morning coffee in the dark quiet of the day. She always said it was her favorite part of the holiday. In fact, if the house was dark and the tree lit we knew exactly where to snuggle up to mom. We would sit and talk of Santa and Baby Jesus or whatever. She encouraged us to dream!
As children my siblings and I were encouraged to get to bed early in the hopes of rising “before the Christmas tree.” We fell hook, line and sinker for that one because I don’t recall ever waking up before the Christmas tree! I confess I used the same bribe on my children and it worked brilliantly! In raising my own family I have passed on all the traditions to my children. They tell me they cherish these family traditions and look forward to doing the same with their children.
Now, imagine not ever having those times together or worse, losing those memories altogether. Four years ago my mother was diagnosed with a form of dementia that required her to be placed in a care facility. Eighteen months later my father was also diagnosed with a type of dementia and required placement. These life-changing situations add stress to holidays and families experience an array of emotions. Based on my experience, I encourage you to take time to check in on your friends and family over the holiday. Help them enjoy the holiday by sharing and bringing the traditions to them. Christmas is about more than the presents; the most treasured gifts are the memories.
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Lisa Buchheit is a registered nurse and a Certified Clinical Research Coordinator at The Corvallis Clinic Clinical Research Center.