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The Transformative Power Of Happy Memory: A Christmas Story Of Love From A Child

There I was. Standing in the coffee aisle of the supermarket. I felt a jolt in my heart an instant before my eyes registered the cause of it. In a moment I was transported back to the years when my children were little—homeschooling, laundry, cleaning, meals, and all the joys that were part of that time. But there in the coffee aisle, I recalled one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received.

Let me tell you the story.

Christmas when my children were small was complicated. During the holiday season, I performed in restaurants and coffee shops as a guitarist/vocalist. I also provided live Christmas music for corporate parties. It allowed me to earn enough money to buy Christmas gifts for my little ones.

In those years that were generally lean, there was the feeling of bounty at Christmas. But it was often challenging to secure care for my children, and I missed being at home during the evening hours. I loved the evening snuggles and stories all year round, but snuggling at Christmas seems special. I wanted to be with my children, but I needed the work. Choices can be hard for moms.

Late evenings of singing led naturally to mornings that required coffee. I enjoyed (read: required) coffee each morning, but on those December mornings, I had a special relationship with this comforting beverage. It was mothering success in a mug. Just add a splash of milk.

I was not aware that my children were aware of how much I enjoyed my morning coffee. I suppose the giveaway was that I went to the coffee pot before I did anything else, then stared into space until my brain woke up for the day. In retrospect, I was a hot mess. I tried to hide that from my little ones, but young children see the truth with clear eyes. They know who we really are no matter how hard we try to put a good face on things. I laugh at myself when I look back on those days. As I said, I was a hot mess. Committed to being a mom.

But they were watching. And they responded to my love for them with tenderness and care.

Courtney, my oldest, was (and still is) The Organizer. She enlisted her grandmother to drive her to the mall and escort her to a small coffee shop. In the days before the big coffee chain with the green and white mermaid on their sign, there was Barnie's. And they had a store in a mall that was twenty miles away from our home in rural North Carolina.

Courtney took her little bit of pocket money, (probably supplemented by her grandmother) walked into Barnie's, and purchased the most thoughtful, thought-filled gift I have ever received. Truly. It was one-quarter of a pound of a flavored coffee called, "Santa's White Christmas". It was for me to have on the mornings of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

I would never have indulged in premium coffee. I still don't. It seems too extravagant. But Courtney, at eight years of age, knew me well and she bought a gift that had all the qualities of the perfect gift: it was something that I enjoyed, something I wouldn't have bought myself, and something that she could watch me take delight in. It was wonderful!

This became a Christmas tradition. I don't know how many years she continued to make the twenty-mile trip to the mall returning with a tiny bag, but the memory looms large for me.

Fast forward over thirty years.

Courtney is a grown woman with a master's degree and an executive position with a nationwide non-profit organization. Her love for people (and organizing things) made this type of career inevitable. She was living and working in Manhattan the day that I was in my local supermarket walking down the coffee aisle. This was several years ago.

I wasn't thinking about anything special. I was just there to pick up a few household items. While scanning the coffee selection looking for a sale, there it was. A 12 oz bag of Barnie's "Santa's White Christmas" coffee. Like a bolt of lightning out of the blue I was struck by the memory. My body froze where it was, but my mind spiraled away.

I didn't even know they still made this coffee. I thought that Barnie's had gone out of business. Tears welled up in my eyes in an instant. It was as though I had been placed in a time machine and whisked backward across the years. I was transported.

I was once again a young woman in love with being a mother. I felt again the weight of providing a magical Christmas for my children while wanting to remain present in every moment. I saw, as if it were happening again, the happiness in my daughter's eyes as she handed me a small amount of coffee knowing that she had touched my heart with her kindness. All that happened right there in the coffee aisle.

The smell of freshly ground coffee beans, the sound of shopping carts limping up and down the aisles, and the low hum of many conversations happening at once were all shrouded in a grey mist as I stared at the bag on the shelf. I struggled to collect myself, and placed a bag in my cart. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and tried to remember what else I came for.

Driving home, I called Courtney and told her what I had found. She laughed and recalled how she had managed to pull of such a long shopping trip. We laughed even more when I said that I had purchased twelve ounces instead of just four. We enjoyed the memory together and marveled at all that the years had provided; how time had passed; how she and her brother were such fine people; and how happy I was to be their mother.

My husband came home yesterday with a bouquet of flowers and a twelve-ounce bag of Barnie's Santa's White Christmas coffee. I will probably buy at least one more before Christmas Day, and then another one to bring to Courtney and her family when we go visit them in Los Angeles where they now make their home.

Each morning I will sip and smile. I will snuggle down in the memories I made with my children when they were young and savor the ones we are making now that they are grown and making memories with their own children.

Here is my message to all the hot mess mamas like I was:

When you are making memories with your children, you are making them for yourself as well. Make as many happy memories as you possibly can. Make big memories of one-time events, and make small memories of daily kindnesses and loving gestures. Make memories that will make you stop in your tracks- maybe in the middle of the supermarket. Tune in to what you do in each moment and make those little moments memorable and joyful. Enjoy your children. Enjoy. Your. Children.

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