The stuffed animal is an elephant ( a source of great amusement to the rest of my father's family, since Dad was a yellow-dog Democrat) and made from old dress material. I expect that my Mamaw made it, though I'm not sure that was ever said in so many words. And nestled with the elephant were cards from a cousin that was near and dear to me in my growing up years; she was a few years older but was always so kind and patient with a younger cousin who worshipped and adored her. Lynn had somehow ended up with my elephant - through the sort of time and tide thing that happens with families - and remembered that my birthday is in December and was generous enough to track me down here in Morehead and sent the Lovey back to me.
Reconnecting with Lynn is the real gift right now, of course. But along with that are the gifts of memories of Christmases at my grandmother's house. I can't be the only one who remembers the scent of pies, the (truly ugly) wallpaper in the dining room, being seated at the card table in our grandmother's bedroom instead of at the 'grown up' table. In reality, of course, there are not so wonderful memories as well: arguments, and folks showing up not quite sober, and wondering from year to year who was speaking to whom.
That being said: We all have choices. And we can choose what we let define us, and what we are willing to jettison for our own well being. This time of year we are surrounded by the Ghosts of Christmas Past. Some of us white wash our present by choosing to remember a past that is perfect, and Hallmark, and Norman Rockwell, and ideal. I'd venture to guess that no one's past is that pristine. We run the risk, though, of putting our energy and time in repeating the phrase, "It's not like it USED to be......." in a querilous tone; that robs us of experiencing the here and now.
Some of us stay marked by our past: we remember the hurts, or the fights, or the poverty of what was. And again - we are robbed of the here and now.
Don't let the Ghosts of Christmas Past steal your joy in this very year. Be awake to surprise ( like elephants coming in the mail), and if you can, make sure someone's day is merry and bright. Lots of folks grumble about how 'they' are stealing Christmas and 'they' aren't honouring the season. It can't happen: not as long as we listen for angels' wings, share joy and love and hope and peace, and remember that Christmas time is in our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp.