Friday, December 11, 2009

My Favorite Christmas ... an Ice Storm!

NOTE FROM SUSAN: If you’re feeling blue this year about not being able to buy a lot of gifts for your family or find a popular Zhu Zhu Pet, this beautiful story by Mary Jo Rapini reminds us that making memories is really what the season is all about … and what your kids will remember most.

My Favorite Christmas ... an Ice Storm!
by Mary Jo Rapini

When asked about their favorite Christmas, most kids mention the Christmas when they received the most toys. I cannot recall which Christmas that was for me. Most of my Christmases as a child were not measured with toys. I wanted toys ... I wasn’t any different than most kids, but my parents struggled with money, and I don’t remember getting many toys.

In fact, the toy I wanted every year, I never did get. It was this black horse that had wheels on it. When you sat on it and bounced up and down, the horse moved. I imagined myself going down the rugged streets in the small town I grew up in. My imagination made that horse move in a fluent and rapid gallop. He was beautiful, shiny, and black with a red halter. I told everyone I knew how I wanted that horse. I told everyone in my family what his name would be: STAR. I never did get STAR, but I did get something else the year I turned eleven. While I wouldn’t have told you at the time I wanted it, my getting it changed my life in a way that I remember that year as one of my favorite Christmases.

The weather was weird that year in Northern Wisconsin. It was warm and didn’t snow. It got rainy, and then sleet, and on Christmas day I woke up with my eight brothers and sisters to an ice land. It was gorgeous! The trees looked like crystal, and the red cardinals and black crows looked surreal sitting on empty black branches. We had no furnace in the home I grew up in. We had a fuel oil burner. My dad had been nursing the flame since 4 am that morning to make sure it did not go out. We came running downstairs and opened our presents. I remember getting a nightgown, gloves, and new socks. I don’t remember the toy I opened that year. My mother made a big Christmas breakfast that included eggs and toast (my favorite).

My dad, who worried most of the time about our survival, said a prayer at breakfast and then told us all to get dressed in warm clothes. We were going to go outside and skate all of the roads in my small town. What?? How exciting! My dad usually built an ice pond in our back yard, but we never went skating on the roads to town. On this day, the normally rugged roads were like glass. We all bundled up, laced our skates and left for downtown. This was usually verboten. We were rebels! The greatest part was my dad playing and leading all of us. He was the worst skater, and he would laugh and fall. I can cry when I think about it. What a great time and Christmas morning it was.

This Christmas, many families struggle with their finances. They feel badly they cannot afford to care for their children and buy them the toys they want. I have only this to say. I have plenty of money and can afford to buy my children the gifts they want. I cannot buy them this memory of my 11th Christmas. I cannot buy them the love and laughter that I feel every time I think of skating with my whole family on that special Christmas morning. Maybe your kids don’t need the most popular toy or new boots so they fit in with their peers. Maybe they need their parents to plan something special as a family to create a memory that can bring tears to their eyes for years to come.

Mary Jo Rapini is a licensed psychotherapist and the co-author of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex, or Whatever ( Rapini’s monthly column, “Note to Self,” appears the third Monday of each month in the Health Section of the Houston Chronicle and is often picked up by other newspapers around the country. She is also contributing three relationship tips a week via the Chronicle’s blog -- and is a Contributing Columnist for Rapini writes the “Ask Mary Jo” column for Houston Family Magazine. Her advice has been featured in numerous other publications such as Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Men’s Health and Self. Rapini does a weekly spot on Fox-TV’s FOX 26 Morning News in Houston and regularly appears on regional and national radio and TV. Learn more about Rapini at

1 comment:

  1. Christmas can be a difficult time for parents and children. Parents want to make it special, children want new presents and toys. And sometimes these two wishes simply don't match. A really special time for both children and parents is time where everyone together is playing and having fun.


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