Most of us have that one special Christmas. The one when you awaken after a sleepless night filled with such anticipation and nervousness. Fingers crossed and a shaky smile on your face as you descend the stairs, hoping and praying Santa has left you that one special gift. The one Christmas that tops all others. The one that makes all other Christmas mornings a little less shiny because they will never be quite as magical as the “one.”
I was eight years old when I had that one special Christmas. It was the year Santa brought me the Paradise Estate. Back then, My Little Pony dolls were everything to me and I had dreamed about owning their pink plastic mansion for months on end. I had asked for this on my Christmas list but I just didn’t think Santa was going to come through.
The level of shock and gratitude I had when I walked into that room and saw the gift I had been dreaming about is something I am not sure my own children can appreciate. I was a true 80’s child and I was not used to receiving many presents during the year. Gifts were limited to birthdays and Christmas. If there was anything in between it was rare and most probably from a yard sale.
So Christmas became everything. It created a feeling of such excitement that sleep was almost impossible for me. I would stay up for most of the night. Staring outside at the Santa’s Runway my treasured neighborhood did every Christmas Eve. Lights flickering in white bags that lined the streets. My euphoria growing every single minute as the clock inched closer to morning.
The Paradise Estate Christmas left an imprint on my heart that has never gone away. I was eight years old and had the best life a girl could ever hope for. A wonderful home with a wonderful family and all the love in the world.
It left an imprint on my heart that could never be erased. An imprint that would help ease the terrible pain and sadness I endured when my storybook childhood came to a crashing halt just four short years later.
Christmas mornings were never the same after that. My dad was around for a few more but not many. The innocence and magic of it all was now buried under an air of worry and anxiety that seemed to surround those unpredictable years of my father’s addiction.
But I still had that one special Paradise Estate Christmas in my heart. The one that would help me get through all of the others. It was still there when we worried about having heat in our house instead of what presents would be under the tree. When nervousness about having enough food came before the awe and wonder of the holidays. And it was there on that one sad Christmas morning when my dad reappeared, on the wagon temporarily, to cook us a sad Christmas meal in the dirty, worn down shell of a house he was now living in. This man, my father who had stayed up all night to put together my beautiful Paradise Estate, was now barely able to look his three children in the eyes.
Years later, I would forgive my dad and we would spend the last few Christmas mornings of his life together, celebrating as a family. I would like to believe my forgiveness was made easier because of moments like that one Paradise Estate Christmas. Because in my father’s act of love, ensuring that I had the most magical Christmas an eight year old could ever have, he had laid the foundation. He had left an imprint on my heart and I knew I had been loved and was still loved even through all of the hurt and the pain.
That love would always be there.
I have never had another Christmas like that one Paradise Estate Christmas and I am not sure I ever will. 26 years have passed and I now have the pleasure of playing Santa myself. I try to recreate that magic with my own two boys but I am not sure I have ever topped the Christmas of 1988.
It is tucked safely away, reminding me that I was once eight years old. Reminding me of that wonderful family I had in my safe and wonderful house, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.
A girl who knew that she was loved.