by Evan Stair

Welcome to a sleepy late evening while the chill in the darkness outside whips up a mood for pure relaxation in the confines of a house which is asleep. With the lights bright, gently pull out a sauce pan and fill it with a couple of cups of water. Light the fire and kick back for a few minutes at the kitchen table. There is no need to watch. It will get there eventually.

Seasons Past and Present
There are hours upon hours in the Christmas vacation of a college student. There is no need for companionship. There is good company in the memory of seasons past. The relations have not arrived. The silence of the present is a welcome preparation for the noise to come and the noise that has past.

Now, pull out that weathered cup. Pour in the powder followed by the steaming hot liquid. Put on some light Jazz or listen to the wind gently blow the limbs of leafless trees. Slowly stir the heat out of the cup while whipping up a stormy foam. Carefully sip the rich foam making sure the temperature is right. Ignore your mothers urgings and rest a couple of elbows on the table. The year is ending; just let it go.

Reflective Memories
Quiet is important during the holidays. I learned this about ten years ago as a reflective college student. One of my favorite Christmas memories is kicking back and enjoying a cup of “Swiss Miss” after my friend had gone home. There were no out of town guests in the house. No one was awake to disturb my introspection. It was just myself, the family dinner table, and a cup. I don’t particularly remember what I thought about. Maybe just the flavor of chocolate, the sound of the breeze outside, and a moderately cool house warmed only by a my toasty cup.

Gift of Being There
If you think about it, very few favorite holiday memories are of presents received or given. Remember that when you are shopping for gifts. If there is one lesson that we should learn from the holidays it should be that the best gift you can give is the gift of just being there.

To make your holiday a success enjoy the small unexpected moments. It is a chance to allow your mind to take a “deep breath.” Enjoy a few extra moments with a cheerful clerk at your local department store. And if the clerk is not cheerful see if you can bring out that Christmas spirit. It will allow you to breathe while letting someone who has to work during the holidays knows they are appreciated.

Most of us take a few days off and it only takes a few extra seconds to slow down the quick pace of the season. You might just be a part of someone else’s favorite holiday memory.

Santa’s Train?
Being a railfan I enjoy the photographing trains in my home town. Trains rarely make their presence in my home town. However, a few days before Christmas several years ago I was photographing a train that was switching a local industry. I was looking for the best angle when all of a sudden I saw a little girl walking out of a store with her father and brother. She glanced to her left and excitement filled her four or five years.

She began exclaiming jumping up and down, “Look Daddy! Its Santa! Its Santa!” Well the Santa Fe used to run through town and if you have never seen a Santa Fe locomotive they proudly used to display their corporate name on the side of their blue and yellow locomotives. This innocent little girl was filled with the joy of seeing the railroad named after St. Nick. At least in her mind it was St. Nick’s train. I was not a part of this scene but an interested bystander. Who could not smile after seeing this unfold.

Christmas Eve Serenity
I also like driving down Main Street in my home town after the stores are long closed on Christmas Eve. The city is deserted but the Christmas lights sparkle. Again there is a serenity to the stillness of Christmas Eve.

You can almost hear the whole town whispering Silent Night.

Images of Love
Then there is that reoccurring image of mom making Christmas Dinner or wrapping packages. Is there any more enduring image of love?

Don’t try and force Christmas memories. The expectations will be too great. Just let them happen. Kick back, have a cup of “Swiss Miss,” and please everybody take time to breathe this season.