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December 20, 2010

Roberta Gately on the Smells and Sounds of Christmas

Posted by Anonymous
gately-roberta_150x110.jpgThis afternoon, Roberta Gately --- nurse, humanitarian aid worker and the first-time author of LIPSTICK IN AFGHANISTAN --- helps spread the holiday spirit by musing on the magic of Christmas memories. 
Even the name is magical. It rolls off my tongue and twirls through my thoughts, stirring up wonderfully evocative memories of enchanting, never-to-be-forgotten moments. I remember, as though it was yesterday, a snowy Christmas Eve when my dad, his finger to his lips, whispered, “Shh, can you hear it? Santa’s up there.” He pointed to the roof and, wide-eyed with wonder, we stood perfectly still and listened. And I heard it. To this day, I remember it all --- hushed silence and then the unmistakable sound of Santa’s sleigh on our roof. But the magic didn’t end there. My dad rushed to the window. “Hurry,” he beckoned, holding back the curtains. “You can see him.” And I did see a flash as his sleigh took to the sky. I barely slept; my eyes were open, my ears…but that was Christmas Eve. There was still so much more to come.  
And then, after what seemed an eternity, it was Christmas morning. And though the house was still dark, and our parents’ eyes were heavy with sleep, the magic continued. My senses exploded with the distinctive smell of a new doll, her plastic body just waiting to be held, or the feel of a new book --- the crisp pages filled with adventure and escape --- the sweet scent of chocolate, unlimited on Christmas (or so we believed)…the sound of laughter, of jingling bells, of squeals of delight. All of that is Christmas to me, and still, there is more. The scent of roasting turkey permeating the house, the doorbell signaling the arrival of family and friends. Christmas hums in my memories with a special and simple kind of joy --- a joy that I can invoke year-round.
It is these memories that are my favorite Christmas gifts, for they return to me each year in the form of sweet sounds and still-sweeter scents. And as I sit myself down on Christmas Eve to catch the news radar of the local TV station tracking Santa’s global position, I am certain that I hear my dad saying, “Shh, can you hear it?”
And if I am very quiet, I can hear it again.

Tomorrow bestselling author and poet Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni reflects on the Christmases she spent with her grandfather --- and his greatest gift of all.