Memories rarely stick when you think they will. You can't make them stay. They do or they don't; you aren't allowed into the decision. They're ornery that way. It's a neural hat trick, which events stay embedded in the folds of the brain, which get discarded. It's alchemy.
I remember few Christmas mornings. You're supposed to, of course, that's where the emphasis goes, what all the commercials point to as the most important moment. It's what everyone prepares for, when everyone takes out the camera. Why some families spend hundreds of dollars on presents and decorations: to make a perfect family memory. But it doesn't work, not very often. You can't force a memory. They do what they wanna do. Like I said: ornery.
My Christmas memories are of being on the roof putting up Christmas lights in the weeks beforehand, of playing with Play-doh in the languor of the days after. Of wondering what the giant present hidden in the closet is. Of watching my sister open wrapping paper with the cat's claw so she can see what the present is, yet preserve deniability by blaming the cat.
Toys breaking, I remember. Arguments, I remember.
Several years ago, the girls and I were putting up Christmas lights, and a deer wandered onto our block, elegant, unhurried, strolling from one lawn to the next. I called the little Hux out to watch. Then boom!, a backyard dog began to bark, the deer vanished in a series of leaps, pogo-ing away, all four legs pumping at the same time.
It's a reindeer, said the eldest. It's flying!
That, we've all remembered.