I know it might be weird to some (including my husband) but I love Christmas music. At this time of year I make good use of my Pandora Christmas internet radio station.
I wander around our house in Washington state belting out the carols as I am busy making holiday crafts or doing household chores. And every year, when I hear a certain song especially, it makes me grateful for and a little bit nostalgic for my Minnesota childhood and for my grandfather.
You know that song that goes, “Jingle bell time is a swell time to go riding in a one horse sleigh.” Whenever I hear that song I think, “I did that! Every year! I was so lucky!” Now living miles away from the snow that makes that possible, and more than a decade after my grandfather’s death, I still can’t believe how lucky I was to have that experience. My father’s father actually owned and farmed with workhorses. In our modern life now the thought of it almost seems like a dream, even to me, and I was there. And every year at this time grandpa would “hitch up the team” and take us on a ride, in a sleigh, through the snow. I have years of memories, some more vivid than others of the sleigh rides that we would take together.
Aunts, uncles, cousins, parents would pile into the sleigh and head out—sometimes through the woods, sometimes down the dirt road. My grandfather would tie a sled behind the sleigh too, and my cousins and I would take turns riding on it and pushing each other off in the snow. We’d jump out for snowball fights and then race to catch up to the sleigh again. Some years we’d be on the sleigh ride expedition that got us our Christmas tree. For us at the time it was a common winter treat. I didn’t realize then how rare they were or would become.
Years before he died my grandfather had a stroke that prevented him from taking us out on sleigh rides. It stopped him from doing most things actually. Still, the memories of those days ring as true and strong as the horses that pulled us. Even now, what must be more than two decades after the last ride we took I can recall them in vivid detail: the dark green color of the sleigh, the misty breath of the horses puffing out against the clear cold Minnesota air, my grandfather’s voice saying “Woah!” in that strong and even way that signaled the horses to stop, the double click of his tongue against his teeth coupled with the wave of the reigns that got the horses moving on again, and of course the jingling of the bells my grandfather always tied to horses.
It’s just like the song. “Getty-up jingle horse pick up your feet,” and every year at this time I am jingled back to memory lane with my grandpa and his horses and our winter treats. The thoughts fill me with both a longing for those times past and a feeling of gratitude for such a special experience. Those are irreplaceable moments.
Now as a mother of a young family, (our first born is just over a year and our second is on the way) it makes me cognizant of how lasting and meaningful those precious holiday moments and traditions are. As my husband and I strive to come up with holiday rituals of our own I feel grateful for the ones that held me as a child and I see how much the moments create meaning and warm memories for years and years to come.