What I love most about Christmas

When I was younger, it was all about the gifts--the latest handbag, a piece of jewelry or a rare book would make me scream with joy. However, now that I have all of these things, my desires have become a lot more simple and, I think, much more in keeping with the true spirit of the season.

One of my favorite things to do is visit each and every department store in town to check out the holiday trimmings--not to buy anything but just to soak in the atmosphere. I love watching the kids' eyes light up over a new toy or a visit with Santa. I especially love the festive spirit that can still be found in the Walnut Room at Macy's on State Street. Granted, the decor is not what it used to be when it was Marshall Field's, but it still holds a certain magic. The Christmas gifts, trees and ornaments that can be found in abundance on the 5th floor, remains the best selection in town.

These walks down memory lane are especially poignant because I remember the joy it would always bring to my mom. She was a true Christmas girl through and through so it's no wonder I'm filled with holiday spirit, and then some. When we would visit these bedecked and bedazzled stores, she would stop at every little object that sparkled and ooh and ahh over it--now I do the very same.

I love the holidays in New York too. There are no windows in the world that rival Bergdorf Goodman's during any season! But when we traveled to Paris for Christmas, I was a bit disappointed in the decor we found there. Since it hardly ever snows, they flock the trees with white bunting but it was never the same as the real thing.

Back at home, I just love staring at my Christmas tree ornaments over a glass of Pinot Grigio because each one holds a treasured memory. One of the first ornaments my mom gave me when Chuck and I were married was a little, miniature Barbie doll dressed exactly like the one she gave me when I was little. My cousin Cindy Groce recently told me my mom was frantic to find it for me before she visited us one Christmas. The story made me cry and now I treasure it even more.

I also love the ingenuity of some of our little "tree miracles" like the clock-work Polar Express ornament that has a tiny little train running in and out of a tunnel or Tweety Bird singing from a gilded cage. I also love the automated Winnie-the-Pooh ornament that has Pooh serving Piglet cookies out of an oven.

And then there are the ornaments that represent trips or important places in our lives. There's one from Notre Dame (Chuck's alma mater) and, of course, a Dupo High School ornament! I have intricate ones featuring the Rockettes from the Radio City Christmas Show and also one from a favorite NY spot, the "21" Club.

But the ones that really mean the most are more personal like the hand-knitted ornament that my 1st grade teacher, Edna Faulkner, gave me.  I also treasure one created by my late half-sister, Shirley Mobley, of a little Post Office, where my dad worked.

And even though it can be very sentimental and emotional, Christmas is still my favorite time of the year. We play Christmas discs constantly and candles smelling of pine fill the air. Even the terrace looks festive with four brightly lit trees and a wreath!

Christmas, for me, means making memories that will last a lifetime. And even though so many loved ones are missing physically, they are all with us in spirit, especially during this time of the year. Yes, Santa has been very, very good to me and I'm so grateful.

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