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  • Maya Merino

Holiday Memories


 

I’ve had many pleasant memories of the holiday season, but my earliest one is this: I’m three years old on Christmas Eve sitting on the living room carpet, surrounded by family members, the smell of arroz con gandules, and warm yellow light. The front door opens, bringing a gust of cool air with it, and the room grows loud in collective greeting as an older cousin, distant in blood but close in our hearts, walks into the house. I turn my head to look, and in his arms is the most beautiful burnt orange stuffed tiger I have ever seen. Oh, I really hope it’s for me.

Time passes and now I’m seven and in church with my brother Cesar and a bunch of other community kids as we celebrate la novena de los aguinaldos, asking baby Jesus in song to come into our hearts. We shake maracas and sing all the villancicos that we will soon know by heart. After the novena, maybe we will go to my aunt’s house and eat natilla and buñuelos.


Many more Christmases blur by, and my aunts start a tradition of going up to a cabin with all our younger cousins to be together for three or four days. Over the years we make snow creatures, learn board games, create (and star) in homemade movies, and have intense NERF gun battles. We also stay connected with each other, learn and love each other’s interests, and look out for each other no matter what. 


Fast forward. I’m 16 now at New Year’s, and sick out of my mind. My dad had plans for us to have a night out in Boston. We were originally going to attend some public events, maybe eat out, and then go see the fireworks at midnight, but then I went and caught the world’s worst cold. We try to attend some of the events, but after some time my dad sees that my body is not up for any of it and mercifully, we call it quits.


However, by this time it's already too late at night to drive back to his house in Worcester county, so we book a room in a cheap motel where we can stay the night, and I can get some rest. The rest of the night is spent watching bad cable TV, playing card games, and talking and joking together. I think it was the loveliest New Year’s I’ve ever had.


These moments all glitter like snowflakes in my mind, each one perfect and unique. None of them are particularly large moments, but they’re what keep me looking forward to this time of year. The community and love they hold is what distinguishes them as my definition of the holiday season, reminding me that it doesn’t really matter what, when, or how you celebrate. It’s the simple act of being together with those you love that make the holidays what they are. What memories are you reflecting on? Which ones will you build?

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