Remembering the Magic – Holiday Reflections

By Dec 7, 2011 January 30th, 2015 75 Comments

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Last week, we kicked off a short series of posts where some lovely writers share reflections on the holidays. The first post was The Memory Book, and it’s a must-read. Today, we have another touching story. Tonya from Letters for Lucas shares why this Christmas might be different than years past in Remembering the Magic.

My mother adored Christmas.

During the holiday season, the kitchen would be a constant revolving door of baked goods; festive-shaped sugar cookies and warm delicious chocolate chip cookies. My mom would patiently craft rich chocolate into fudge and create scrumptious pies; pumpkin for my father (his favorite), pecan for my sister (hers) and chocolate for me.

An adored Christmas treasure could be found in every nook and cranny in our home: a couch covered with stuffed animals donning Santa hats and tiny red and green sweaters, sweet cinnamon and vanilla scented candles, a snow globe with bears slowly dancing under mistletoe to the tune of Jingle Bells, candy dishes overfilled with peppermint, red and green M&M’s and candy canes.

The centerpiece of our home during the holiday was always the tree. My mother had the most colorful Christmas tree I’d ever seen before or since; covered with ornaments from my family’s travels around the globe, each one holding it’s own special significance.

Beginning December 1st, my mom would wear the gaudiest Christmas sweaters, but because she taught second grade, she got away with it. The children in her classroom loved them and her matching festive holiday jewelry too.

My mother’s love of the holiday could be felt in the details as she expertly wrapped presents and made sure everyone around her was full of cheer and ready to indulge.

My mother has been gone for four Christmases. She and my father died of carbon monoxide poisoning in October 2007. I miss them every day, but especially during the holidays.

I haven’t been able to decorate my own home for the holidays in four years. My mom was such a big part of making this time of the year special that I haven’t been able to bring myself to attempt to replicate her magic.

My son Lucas is two and a half and I think I’m ready.

This year, I’ve decided that we will get a tree, there will be sugar cookies and fudge and I am going to decorate with gusto. It’s time to bring out of storage the beautiful colorful ornaments I was both given and inherited from my mother and let the spirit and joy for her favorite holiday be remembered and celebrated.

And maybe, just maybe pass some of that cheer on to Lucas.

About the Author

Tonya is a stay-at-home mother to two-year old son, Lucas. She writes Letters For Lucas as a way to document his childhood and maintain her sanity. Turns out listening to Dave Matthews and consuming lots of red wine helps too.

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About Alina Thomas

Alina is a Northern Virginia wedding photographer based out of Leesburg, VA. She has a passion for arts and design, and strives to express it through her work. She is creative at heart and loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge in photography with other Virginia wedding photographers on her blog each week. Alina loves being a new mom to her first-born and spending time with her husband who helps her run her businesses. Please feel free to follow her on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+.


  • Leah Adams says:

    You really described our Christmas’s with mom and dad perfectly. I miss them very much. I’m glad that you were able to get into the spirit this year and decorated your house. I am sure Lucas loved it. I certainly enjoyed seeing it all.

    • Tonya says:

      It was fun and even a little sad when we took it all down last week. Here’s to keeping traditions alive and well!!

  • Sela Toki says:

    Sometimes is takes a while to adjust to a loss. Such a tragic and sad story of your beloved parents. What’s wonderful is the memories that she has left to you. You can treasure that forever. Thanks for sharing your story. Merry Christmas and God bless.

    • Tonya says:

      Thank you for reading. We had a good holiday and the memory of my mother and her love of Christmas lives on through me and my son now too!

  • This was so touching. I am so unbelievably sorry for your loss. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you this time of year. Hopefully Lucas’ joy at Christmastime will help life your spirits.

    Also, your ornaments are lovely. I’m enjoying the Instagram pics!

    • Tonya says:

      Thanks! We had a really nice holiday and I loved creating some new traditions with Lucas. He made my holiday.

      Wishing you all the best in 2012!

  • Pamela list says:

    oh my goodness. God bless you. I am pretty sure your mom will be holding your hand through the holidays in spirit and your father as well. I wish you the best.


  • Sili says:

    What a beautiful post. My mother died in February and like yours, Christmas was her favorite holiday. I have a fresh tree in the garage that I am about to put up and decorations lying all around the place. I think it will help you. I have a 2-year old as well. Last year, though she was sick, mom was intent on making sure that the baby had a tree at her house. That’s how much she loved it. And I think it was also her way of letting me know what to do this year. I am sure your mom is going to cheer you on as you decorate this year. I know mine is!


    • Tonya says:

      It was a good holiday, full of first traditions and memory making moments. There were tears too as I recalled my mother’s love for the holiday and her absence.

      I am so sorry for your loss and send you peace. xo

  • Kir says:

    I can only hope that time helps to soothe that pain and that CHRISTMAS does its magic and brings you happy memories, comfort and peace. My heart is with yours this holiday season sending you love and joy!!!!!

    What a gorgeous post as we celebrate my favorite time of year….love you!!!! Xo

  • Anne Galivan says:

    Kudos to you for not jumping into the holiday celebrations until you were ready.

    My brother was killed in 1997 by a drunk driver and I can tell you I did not want to celebrate Christmas that year! But I had three children at the time (I have four now) and I felt like I had to “do” for them. In addition, I made the terrible mistake of going to a church function – a women’s Christmas party – because I felt like it was the “right” thing to do. It was a disaster for me. I felt like crying the whole time I was there and when I got home I went to bed and slept for three hours it was so draining.

    Due to not taking care of me during that time of grieving I developed a chronic illness that is a challenge to this day. Unfortunately, when we lose a loved one our society expects us to pick up and act like nothing ever happened pretty much as soon as the funeral is over. But human beings don’t work like that and it is very destructive not to grieve.

    Now that you feel ready, I hope you enjoy your holidays with your precious little one.

    • Tonya says:

      Grieving is so important and everyone does it differently and it their own time.

      I am so sorry about your brother and your illness.

      Wishing you peace.


  • Sarah says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting these days…what one more?

    Cheers, y’all.

    • Tonya says:

      Reflecting is good… it helps us moves forward with ease. That’s what I think anyway. Hope your holidays were happy!

  • This is just beautiful, Tonya. I could totally picture your mom in a horrific Christmas sweater wrapping presents late at night listening to Christmas music.

    I’m sure finally finding the strength to truly do Christmas up right this year will bring you much sorrow and joy. Hugs to you.

    • Tonya says:

      Thanks! No one could enjoy Christmas as much as my mom, Christmas or those God-awful sweaters. Just thinking about it makes me smile. 🙂

  • […] has been four years since we’ve decorated our home for the holidays. You can read why here […]

  • Natalie says:

    Tonya what a beautiful way to remember your mom…and what a gift you are giving to Lucas by passing all those traditions along. xoxox

    • Tonya says:

      Thanks, Natalie! We had a wonderful first tradition filled holiday. I’m already looking forward to next year. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    Tonya I can’t imagine how difficult it must be during the holidays but I hope that you are able to decorate your house and enjoy all of the excitement with Lucas.

  • Kimberly says:

    I can’t imagine this kind of pain, especially during this time of year. Maybe seeing the joy and awe through Lucas’ eyes will help bring some cheer and healing. Thinking of you. xo

  • Leanne says:

    I’m so glad that you’ve found the magic this year- if for nothing more than your little boy. I hope that in the process you find some healing, too. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Sherri says:

    I loved that you were doing the tree this year. I think it’s so much easier to move forward from grief with little Lucas there to admire your traditions and decorations.

    Much love to you, this was beautiful Tonya.

    • Tonya says:

      Lucas is in heaven with all the decorations and the twinkle in his eyes warms my heart like nothing has in a while.


  • HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So sorry for your loss & hoping the memories keep you moving forward!!! I have lost many family members & it is so tough!

  • Poppy says:

    This of course was lovely and I am glad that you feel strong enough to make it special for Lucas this year because this time of year with him at this age will be so fun. Did you keep any of the sweaters ?!?

    • Tonya says:

      Damn it, I should have. I have been invited to several ugly sweater holiday parties when I could have used one. 🙂

      Thanks for following me over here today.

  • This is beautiful, Tonya. It’s never quite the same, but it can be similar and different at the same time. I lost my dad over 13 years ago. I don’t remember what the magic year was, but at some point I just started doing some of the things he did to bring him back to our lives. I can’t imagine losing both parents at once. It must be unbearable at times. But I do know that as time goes on, the good memories flood back in and erase the endpoint that once felt so final.

  • Such a lovely post. Sad, but amazing because you are ready to move forward. And for Lucas, that will be so important. And as he gets older you will share more and more about what your mother did at Christmas (and throughout the year). By doing so you will keep her memory alive.
    I have also lost both my parents. I have an inkling of what you are feeling.
    Big hugs…

    • Tonya says:

      It’s harder to move on some days than others but completely necessary.

      Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season.

  • Galit Breen says:

    Tonya, this is stunning. I loved the way that you wove your story from then to now.

    Much love to you, dear friend.


    • Tonya says:

      Thank you. It was a necessary post to write. You know the kind that you just can’t shake? Thank you for visiting me here today!

  • Beautiful holiday post! Lol to the gaudy Xmas sweaters! Our mothers must be related. (Nice to meet you, sis!) As I’ve seen many of these cringe-worthy sweaters, we must have cities-ful of siblings…shall we start a support group?

  • I can imagine how hard that is, especially when it was such a big part of someone you’ve loved and lost. So glad to hear you’re ready to give it a try. I hope it brings you all lots of joy.

  • Sorry about your parents. I guess it is hard to put your cheering spirit during the holidays. Good to hear you are ready to embrace it back with your little one, Lucas. I can only imagine all the wonders through his little eyes. How lovely moment for the two of you.

    • Tonya says:

      I am very excited to celebrate the holidays this year. It’ll be different than past Christmases, but special in it’s own way. In large part thanks to my son.

  • Oh wow! I understand why you couldn’t do it for a few years, but am so happy you’re ready to now. I’m sure your family will have a beautiful Christmas, Tonya!

  • Robbie says:

    Reading your loving descriptions of your mom I can imagine her being mobbed by little 7 year olds in her head to to holiday gear. I hope the your son’s excitement helps you find the courage to embrace the holidays and create amazing memories for him.

    • Tonya says:

      You know it! Her second graders LOVED her and her holiday grab. That was really fun to watch.

      Our tree is up and the house is all decked out and Lucas is in heaven! 🙂

  • Shell says:

    Oh, Tonya. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it was to lose your parents. But, how wonderful that you want to make these memories for your son, too.

    • Tonya says:

      Thanks, Shell!

      The feeling of loss is always there, but I find such solace (as you can imagine) in Lucas and the twinkle in his eyes make it all better.

  • […] Remember the Magic with me and if you’re new to Letters For Lucas, welcome! I hope you’ll stay a while and […]

  • Marie Cole says:

    Wow, your Mom really made Christmas feel special, I am sooo sorry for your GREAT loss of both of your parents. It’s time for Lucas to see his Grandma through you at Christmas time. 🙂

  • weblly says:

    So sorry about your mom’s loss. It’s great that your perspective is to remember the great things about Christmas and to celebrate it’s true meaning with your loved ones.

    • Tonya says:

      Yes, that’s what this time of year is for, isn’t it?

      I miss my mom every day but I’m looking forward to creating new traditions with my son, who is already over the moon about the tree and decorations. 🙂

      Happy holidays!

  • Beautiful post! I’ve only started celebrating Christmas when I became a parent over 2 years ago.

  • Life As Wife says:

    I hope that one day Lucas describes your gusto for Christmas in the same way you describe your mom’s!

  • Elizabeth says:

    It’s been 12 years since my mom died and I just started getting back into the whole Christmas thing about 3 years ago. She loved the holiday season so much. It bothers me my sister could care less about the family emphasis our mom put on the holidays. I make the most of it for the 3 of us and our dad. I love the holiday season.

    • Tonya says:

      I’m sorry for your loss. 12 years is a log time, but I am certain the loss is the same.

      It’s hard when the season meant something so special for so long and now it means something totally different. Not really better or worse, just different.

      I hope you and your family have a glorious holiday.

  • tayarra says:

    What a great post, Tonya. This makes my heart smile. While I was reading I got that mommy guilt. How am I making this tine special for my boys? Will they love to look back and remember these times because I made it special for them or will they envy others around them and wish theirs was so much more memorable? Thank you for sharing your words and good for you to getting to this place for Lucas.
    Sounds like your momma would be so proud!

    • Tonya says:

      Thank you, I hope my mom would be proud.

      As far as the memories and traditions you’re creating in your home… I believe Christmas is not a time to one up one another. Whatever you’re doing, no matter how grand or small is special to your boys. Although, I also believe it’s never too late to institute new traditions. 🙂

      Happy holidays to you and yours!

  • I hope that this Christmas henceforth, you’ll be creating beautiful Christmas memories for Lucas, enveloping your mother’s with your own. Much love to you, Tonya.

  • What loss! Your mom sounds like she embraced Christmas with her whole heart. I bet Lucas is going to love Christmas.

    • Tonya says:

      So far he is having a blast with all the “twinkle lights” and advent calendar and seeing decorations. He’s a joy.

  • Dana K says:

    I am so sorry about the loss of your parents and the impact this grief has had on your life. I have my own issues with Christmas for different reasons and this post gives me hope that I’ll be able to embrace the joy, too. I wish you the best. Hopefully, the light in your son’s eyes will help you through the sadness you are bound to feel as you move forward.

    • Tonya says:

      Like I tweeted you earlier… loss is loss is loss. I hope you find some happiness this holiday season. Much love to you. xoxo

      Thank you for your kind comments.

  • Jackie says:

    I’m sorry for the loss of your parents, but I am glad that you’re ready to decorate for the holidays again. It will be exciting to see the light & magic in Lucas’ eyes!
    I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season!

  • I’ve gotta say that Susan’s comment is exactly what I’d like to say. I think that you are being very courageous to choose joy, even in the face of your sorrow.

    • Tonya says:

      It’s definitely easier said than done some days, but the pay off in my son’s eyes every time he gazes up at the tree or we put a new item in Santa’s bag on our advent calendar makes it all worth it.

  • Tonya, what a lovely post. I hope this is a true turning point in your life. You will never stop missing your Mom, nor grieving her loss, if you’re anything like me. But your Mom would kick your butt if you didn’t give Lucas everything SHE’D love to give him. Everything he deserves.

    Hugs to you and Lucas, and my very best wishes for all the new memories you’re going to be making.

    • Tonya says:

      You are absolutely right! My mother would be so disappointed if I didn’t decorate and enjoy the holidays like she did. Thank you for the kind comments.