Homeschooling Encouragement, Christian Homeschoolers

Memories Happen

  • Todd Wilson Contributing Writer
  • Published Dec 20, 2007
Memories Happen

Take a deep breath. Smell that? It's the smell of Christmas. If I took my favorite memories and put them in a gallon jug, over half would have something to do with Christmas. The tickle of pine needles on my arm, the smell of musty old ornaments made from bottle caps and glitter, the crisp softness of construction paper, and a thousand other memories remind me of where I've been and what's important.

Memories are surprising critters, especially the Christmas variety. I should know. I've made it my passion to create and capture truckloads of Christmas memories for my kids. And they do have truckloads of memories, just not from the truck I delivered.

That's the weird thing about memories. We plan, make arrangements, and set a trap to capture them, and some other memory is caught instead.

Right now I'm looking at one of those memories. My oldest son collected it. It's a 10-ounce Sprite bottle. Yep, that's what I said, a Sprite bottle.

A few years ago, I thought I'd be a good husband and father and cart away some of our children for a little educational field trip. So, bright and early I loaded up the van, and we drove the 40 minutes to tour the largest Amish museum in the country.

Unfortunately, the brochure failed to mention their winter hours, which meant we had to kill two hours. Considering it was an Amish community, this wasn't good.

Luckily, we found an antique mall that was open, and I spent the next 40 minutes walking down aisles of priceless treasures with four fidgety kids and me repeating "Don't touch that," about every 20 seconds.

By the time we made it back to the van, we only had an hour left. Lucky for us, Amish people don't grow all of their own food. So we found a grocery store where we bought a box of Little Debbie snack cakes and several 10-ounce bottles of Sprite.

The rest of our waiting time took place in the museum's parking lot eating snack cakes and guzzling Sprite. Once inside, we spent two hours listening to multimedia presentations on the history of the Anabaptist movement and the differences between the Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites … yeah, that's what the kids thought too.

Later that night, I was shocked when Ben displayed his empty Sprite bottle on his dresser as a reminder of the day.

It's funny. Over the years, they'll forget the tour, but they'll never forget the time Dad got them each a bottle of Sprite and they ate snack cakes in the parking lot of some museum.

That's memories for you. Christmas ones are even worse.

Last year, I was under the impression that to inject the true meaning of Christmas I needed to read a portion of the birth narrative before we decorated the tree. I chose for my text the announcement of John's birth.

We trudged through and then I proclaimed, "This year we're going to hang one ornament at a time, remembering out loud each one." A few minutes later, we were batting the kids away from the ornament box like flies from a cake. They'd reach in, snatch a priceless ornament; we'd gasp and threaten to throw away our Christmas tree if they didn't settle down.

We hung, they giggled, we hollered, and little by little they hung the ornaments in a two-foot square section of the tree, leaving the rest empty.

Up till that point, I did my darndest to take all the fun out of decorating the family tree. Fortunately, kids are resilient.

Next, as all Wilsons have done since the beginning of time, we watched a Christmas TV special. I was prepared, so before Thanksgiving I picked up the animated version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas from our town library.

In the glow of the Christmas tree, we ate Christmas cookies, sipped sparkling grape juice, and watched the Grinch steal all the wazzbanglers and grimdinglers from those hard-sleeping Whos.

And somehow, in the midst of the soft-colored lights and fizzing grape juice, the fuss and tension vanished, and Christmas crept into our house.

To top it off, my son Sam looked up at me with green icing smeared around his mouth and said, "This is a good Christmas night, Dad." He was right. It wasn't the one I had planned, but it was a good one nonetheless.

My kids won't remember my hollering and barking. They may not even remember every detail of my thrilling Bible stories, but they'll always remember that cozy feeling of family, the truth that their parents love them, and even more importantly that God loves them.

There are websites, books, and magazine articles that promise a step-by-step guide to instill memories galore in your children. They get us pumped up and leave us frustrated.

Just remember...  memories happen.

Having a memorable Christmas is that easy. Honest.

You still have to take the lead and make sacrifices of yourself and your time, but if you do … they'll happen.

Your children depend on those memories, and each one you hand them is tucked away and brought back out when it's needed. They'll remind them of what's important and eternal.

So relax. Go ahead and check out the magazines and websites, but don't worry about the results. Memories happen, and the funniest things will remind them of the best ones: a special ornament, the smell of pine needles, the taste of an iced Christmas cookie, or a 10-ounce bottle of Sprite.


Along with being a regular writer for The Old Schoolhouse's The Homeschool Minute, Todd Wilson is the author of Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe, Help! I'm Married to a Homeschooling Mom, The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons, and several other books. Todd is also a dad, conference speaker, and former pastor. Todd's humor and gut-honest realness have made him a favorite speaker at homeschool conventions across the country and a guest on Focus on the Family. You can visit him on the web at where you can sign up for his weekly e-letter to dads and check out all of their unique homeschool encouragement products.

Copyright 2007.
Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Fall 2007. Used with permission.