As I write this post for Christmas Eve day, I'm forced to look back to prior Eves.
Christmas and I have had a squirrely relationship over the years. It had its tides, both ebbs and floods. Early memories of it were so snarled up in my dysfunctional family that no mound of presents could assuage it. I went looking for the feeling of Christmas in my outside world but the dysfunction there was equally thorough.
We lived in a small New York cow town for 1st thru 6th grade (small as in 1,200 people and 10,000 head of dairy cow). In second grade I committed the great sacrilege as my entire 2nd grade class lined up to see Santa on his sleigh on the village green. It was a great and wonderful sleigh as we lived in the New York snow belt and they were still in occasional use back then. They had a 6-brace of horses patiently huffing in the traces, "giving the reindeer a rest before their big night." (A thought that made it into my newest Christmas short story, "Androcles the Christmas Lion: Betsy." We writers use everything!...eventually.)
I whispered to a friend that maybe this wasn't the real Santa Claus because wouldn't he be busy at the North Pole? Maybe this one was just helping him. I was overheard by a teacher and for that I was jerked from line, forbidden my one and only chance to sit in Santa's lap, and made to sit in the corner for the rest of the day. (This was the same teacher who taught us that we were trying to get to the Moon to plant our flag so that we could "set up our guns there and shoot down on all the dirty commies in Vietnam!"...it was an interesting time to be a kid. Oddly, thought she is my least favorite teacher ever, for a number of reasons, I have to think about her almost daily because my left hand is "the one toward the windows" of my second grade classroom.)
I spent much of my time in that corner considering the world at large and Christmas in particular.
As a grown-up, I erased Christmas from my calendar. It took 5 years for friends to coax me over to their house. I couldn't go inside, so we exchanged gifts out in the snow and I went back home. Eventually I got over that and spent a decade of fun Christmases with those friends.
But it wasn't until I married that I found the feeling of Christmas. For that first Christmas together (my first ever in so many ways), my step-daughter was 7 and her mom believed as deeply as her daughter in the wonders of season. I grew up in a bountiful household with no good feelings about the holidays. My wife grew up with few gifts and great joy in her heart.
For most of two decades I've been blessed to be swept up into their happy Christmas world and have discovered a time of joy and family so vast that it would be beyond my belief system were I not experiencing it myself. My kid is out of college now and our family Christmases are still a marvel of simple gifts and great joy--a combination that staggers me anew every year.
I have a number of Christmas books now and I can blame them all on my wife and step-daughter, for they have taught me over and over the meaning of joy. I hope I capture even a tiny piece of that for my readers, because that is what is wrapped deep in every tale.
And wishing you the merriest of Holiday Seasons!
M. L. Buchman has over 30 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews. In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.