A word, a thought, a day, an ancient and every year happening so big so encompassing so full of love and yearning I have to stop and take a deep breath.

I can't write fast enough to place my thoughts on paper, to reel them in and try to get some sort of order.

I'm excited, jumping up and down, thrilled by that shining, tinsel-strewn tree that celebrates at the end of the living room. 

My mother's worn-out silk stockings, one for each of us, filled with red-and-green tissue wrapped presents are hanging over the fireplace, each one bottomed out with an orange and an apple (to fill up room).

We grab our own and tiptoe past the greater magic under the tree to explore on my mother's bed the first small gifts that Santa left in our stockings. What a memory, so real, so vivid, it hangs me like an ornament on that Christmas tree.

Playing all the parts in tableaux arranged by my older sister and her girlfriend performed in front of that fireplace for an audience of two, mommy and daddy, each arrangement portraying a different Christmas carol sung by the older girls. "Silent Night”. First Noel”. “We Three Kings."

A blue dish towel over my head, stuffed animals around a toy bed and me holding a swaddled baby doll, wearing a sheet holding one of my father's walking canes, gazing up at a star-lighted sky with a toy sheep at my side, head wrapped in a gaudy scarf, holding my mother's fancy decorated sewing box, looking regal and wise.

I play them all, thrilled, knowing in my heart that I really truly am each person I portrayed.

Freezing cold stomping around a snowy lot usually empty but filled with evergreen trees.  It is amazing how long it takes to find the perfect one, "No, that's not tall enough, too spindly, needles already falling." Mother as a critic.

"What about this one?" daddy trying to be patient dropping it back down when the head shake says no.

"Look, you can see through the branches. Marilyn come here, stopping running around. Oh, John here, here it is!" and home we go to thaw our toes and watch daddy nail the trunk to a wooden, homemade stand of crossed boards and drink hot cocoa.

Memories? Not really. More like time travel because as I write I am reliving each scene replete with feelings, even my feet are cold. What a gorgeous gift, what a delight the past can be at Christmas.

There's more, of course. 34 Randolph St.; 111 Edgewood Ave; 8 Abbott Road all the homes that graced the wonderful husband, three children Christmas times for 26 years. Mommy myself now, the joy and excitement turned upside down as I watch David and Pamela and Daniel enjoy old traditions that for them are as magical and new as they were for me.

Christmas dinner is inviolate, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, plum pudding smothered in hard sauce always tastes the mouth-watering same. 

Adding, making new ones, still opening stocking presents first but now having to eat breakfast before the tree extravaganza.

"Mommy you are soooooo mean!" but oh how it lengthens the day and gets food into these wild children, the men in the neighborhood  becoming reindeer with snappy bell-trimmed antlers on their heads racing around the streets dispensing candy canes to the yelling children who followed  them laughing, the renowned Restione Christmas party with the large punch bowl filled with merrily alcoholic punch surrounded by merrily alcoholic guests singing, "Twelve Days of Christmas," each verse becoming more ribald than the last. Tying old and new together by a reading of "A Christmas Carol" as I used to read aloud to my father, as he sketched designs for lovely handkerchiefs at his drawing table.

No break, not even in these later long widowed years because son David and daughter-in-law Camille enlarge and enwrap the day with all the trappings I've known and throw in a wonderful wide loving family to welcome me as well.  Stockings, endless presents that cannot be opened until the riddle on the tag are solved. It takes days. 

How can I be so lucky to know and live a day that sets me back to love each and every year?

This lovely cord flows on and on through the years from then and then to now ending in a great big red bow ready to be untied, spilling all the joys of a new Christmas. 

Restione writes from Court House.