Nora’s List: Clip-on princess dresses, Orbeez, and a make-up box. Luckily Santa was able to get all of these. There is nothing like seeing the happiness and joy on your child’s face on Christmas morning. Happy Holidays everyone!

This is Nora’s 4th Christmas. I cannot believe how fast time has gone by. And after just finishing playing “Santa” for Nora I am taking this time of stillness in the house to write some thoughts.

When I was young I could never figure out why they always said the holidays were the most stressful time of year. Why would there be so many suicides? I can now see what happens, maybe not the suicide part, but the stress and depression.

Financially, it can be a real struggle, especially in my line of work of being a freelance graphic designer and photographer. People usually do not want to pay over the holidays, I can’t blame them, I don’t want to pay bills instead of getting my family presents either. Or they just are not doing projects during this time because they have no time for anything else but holiday preperations. But I wont get too much into that as suffice it to say, everyone is feeling the pinch this time of year I am sure. However I know the strain it can put on parents and spouses.

Another stress factor is that as you get older you most likely move away from your parents which then if you do not make it home for Christmas it leaves you a little blue from not being with them. And if you do go home, the sheer cost and logistics can drive you to insane acts. Not to mention if you have children, and how much fun that can be having them trapped in a vehicle for hours.

And once there, family “issues” almost always creep up and at some point you want to just pack up and get home, F***-IT!! However it is that Christmas morning and dinner that makes it all seem worth it.

Last year we did the trek to Cincinnati and then to Baltimore. It about did us in, mentally and financially. So this year we opted to stay home. While mentally and financially, I guess we survived. But emotionally we miss our families.

I start to wander back to all my Christmas’ growing up in Loveland, Ohio. They were pretty special. I just wish I could remember more of them. Some of the memories that are indelibly etched in my brain are ones I will always have.

I remember the glow of the Christmas tree from the living room as the multi colored lights glowed down through the hallway, lighting up the walls and the tiny lights reflecting off the framed family pictures. I loved the tree so much, I even slept under it several times in my sleeping bag.

My parents did not have a lot but managed to always provide me with a great Christmas somehow. One year that stands out is the year we had a blizzard and deep freeze over Christmas. Everything I got, a Nerf football, baseball glove, and bike were all outdoor items. Due to the weather I couldnot play with a single Christmas toy inside (or that is what I remember). So that day after Christmas my mom went out and got me a remote control Jeep for my GI Joes. I loved that thing. But what was the first thing I did with it? I Took it outside and played for hours with it on the frozen street!

The earliest memory I have of Christmas was around 4 years old I believe. I recall it was still dark outside when my brother led me down the hall to the tree. And I got a Sheriff Garrett and his horse for Christmas. I was so excited. I still can feel the happiness as I ate my cereal at the dining room table looking back at the glowing tree illuminating all of my new toys.

Through the years my brother always played with me and helped me put together or set up my gifts. He was 12 years older than I. And when he was old enough to buy me gifts, he always bought me the coolest stuff. Probably because he was still a kid at heart and bought me what he would have wanted had he been my age. I always looked forward to seeing what he got me! The best one was a slot-car racing track, I still have it today and still love to race the cars on it.

Christmas would not have been the same either without my buddy Skippy. He lived behind us and as soon as we would each open presents we would yell out our back sliding glass doors for each other to come over. It was almost like having another Christmas as we always got to play with what the other got.

Boy life easy back then, not a care in the world when I look back. I’m sure at the time we were stressed about silly things like were we going to get the right GI Joe or color bike. I am very grateful to my family who gave me awesome Christmas memories. I do hate that they are fuzzy, I think I need to look through some photo albums of my mother’s to help flood them back into my memory. I think we will be going home for Christmas next year and that sounds like something to look forward to.

For now, I have to get back to helping Nora make good Christmas memories like the ones I have…