I remember a Christmas many years ago when I woke up and found wrapped presents in the hallway. I left my room and followed the trail of presents all the way to the Christmas tree. Santa had even left a couple wrapped packages in the fireplace!

I like to go through old family photos during the holidays, and remember what Christmases were like when I was a kid. I would watch a Peanuts holiday special, then fall asleep actually thankful that our tree wasn’t quite as sad as Charlie Brown’s decorated twig.

My mom would make pumpkin pies from scratch, giving my brother and I extra dough to roll up with butter, sugar and cinnamon for our own little snacks. We would dip pretzels into chocolate, then roll them in candy sprinkles or broken candy cane bits. We would munch on those treats and more throughout the holiday season.

I’ve realized the past few weeks that I need to work harder to keep some traditions alive with my own children. Sometimes I need to pull them away from their screens-of-all-sorts to actually spend time with them. Our traditions may have morphed over the years, but we still need that quality time to make memories together while we can.

My father passed away during my senior year in high school, a couple months after Christmas. I remember that the ground was still frozen outside in Wisconsin. I remember shopping at Sears with him, before that last Christmas, and the gifts he bought for my mother: sweaters, gloves and a necklace.

Even though he passed away almost 30 years ago, not a single holiday season passes that I don’t spend time looking at photos and remembering my father. I still wish he were with us, to take my boys out hunting with him during the vacation time.

Sometimes these memories make me sad. I really miss my father. He shared his love of photography and computers with me, still two of my favorite passions today.

But these memories remind me how precious time is with my family, too, my husband and our three boys. I tend to avoid crowds and spend a lot of down time at home now, whether decorating a tree together, making pound cake, or just Friday night movie night, eating delivery pizza.

At our last post in Virginia, my husband and I were very busy through the holidays with many different military related functions. While that was fun, by the end of our time in Virginia I felt as if I had been so busy with my husband that I missed out on time with my sons.

We did things together, but many of our family traditions seemed to slip by the wayside. My husband and I were either too busy or too tired to spend that quiet, down time actually talking with our boys.

No matter where we’re posted, I need to remember to slow down during the holidays and actually enjoy the season. If we can’t be near our extended families, I have to find ways to still connect with them, whether through phone calls, sending photos, or sending cards and letters.

I really miss my father, and others who aren’t with us anymore. This is a time to remember the time we did have with them, though, and to be thankful for those who are still with us now.

After all of the houses in which we’ve lived through our military adventures, I hope my children remember some traditions we’ve shared with them as they grow up and go their own ways. Someday I’ll send them off with their own boxes of Christmas photo memories to look back on, too.

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