The week before Christmas is insane in my life. Christmas cards, presents, wrapping, baking, insurmountable projects . . . all in addition to the normal craziness. And then there's the constant: What am I forgetting? Lists are running unceasingly through my mind. Did I remember all the presents? Will my son really like the new toy I got him or will he be disappointed? Did my sister really want THAT? Husband didn't ever say what he wanted. How many days do I have left?
So, why am I putting myself through such misery? The short answer is that I want to make this Christmas special for my family, especially for my two young boys. I want it to be memorable. Following this train of thought, I found myself reflecting on what makes something memorable. What Christmases do I remember most from when I was a child? Surprisingly, I don't remember the toys. I can recall very few of the toys I got for Christmas growing up. I know there were some I absolutely had to have at the time and toys I thoroughly enjoyed, but years later I don't remember them.
I do remember what Christmas FELT like. The times I cherish and remember most are when I saw my other family members happy and enjoying things. I remember being together: playing games , lighting the candles for our advent, eating a big meal, laughing. I remember loving the feeling of giving a gift to someone I loved and seeing them enjoy it. I remember loving that my grandparents got to come stay with us. Christmases weren't perfect, but I the warmth and love I felt from my family is what I cherish and remember most.
Maya Angelou is credited with saying, "People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." I've heard a saying often applied to teaching, but I think it's actually broader than that. I don't remember the details of Christmases past, but I do remember the feelings.
Surprisingly, the same is true with the other major train of thought running through my life right now: books. When I think about the books I've read in the past, which ones do I remember? I may not remember the full plot lines, but I do remember the feelings associated with a book. Was it exciting? Was it romantic enough to make my heart pound? A good book is one that makes you FEEL. It draws you in so you either feel what the characters are experiencing or feel the message the book is trying to convey, maybe both. I've read a lot of books that are boring. I never really connected with the characters enough to feel their experience. However, I've also read books that I couldn't put down until I was sure the main character was going to be okay.
I try to be conscious about this as a writer. I want to spin a web with my words that creates a different dimension in which a reader can escape. My characters are never perfect, but they're believable and easy to relate to. I try to draw the reader in to their lives and problems, sharing their struggles and emotions within a strong, exciting plot. With each sentence, I try to make the reader feel. The delete button is usually my best friend when writing. I'll repeatedly change a sentence just because the word choice or order doesn't convey the right feeling.
I want to be the kind of author who writes good books--books that make the reader feel. I want the reader to almost become lost in the world I spin with words. They need be invested in my characters, to see the actions with their eyes and feel the emotions painted on the page. I want my readers to have my world become theirs for awhile. And when they're done reading one of my books, I want them to remember how it made them FEEL.
So, besides reading a writing a memorable book, what kind of Christmas do I want this year? I want my sons to feel loved. I want them to see their mommy relaxed and happy, not running around trying to make sure the last gift has the perfect bow. I want us to enjoy being together as a family. I want to play games, read the Christmas story together, and laugh. And when my sons grow up, I want them to remember how they felt at Christmas.