It’s that time of year again – the Christmas holiday season. As usual, I’ve been having a really rough time with it all. It’s become a love/hate affair. One minute I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy listening to Christmas songs and the next moment I am drowning in a sudden flood of loneliness and depression. Unfortunately, the floods seem to be washing most of the warm and fuzzies away. This is nothing new, and each new Christmas it seems to only get worse. This year, however, an old memory has taken hold and driven me to new heights of despair and longing for what once was.

It’s a simple memory, really. It’s of my (ex-)wife and I back in our early dating days, which were long ago, back in our later teen years. One of the first large malls to be constructed in our area was one of our favorite haunts. This was before the time of indoor malls. You could walk from store to store under the cover of the wide overhangs, but you still had to go out into the weather to do so. In a way, this made going from store to store more enjoyable. It was nice to get the fresh air between stores, but in the cold weather it was nice to be able to go into the warm stores, and at Christmas time the presence of snow and all the decorations made it all the more enjoyable.

We shopped (and window-shopped) at several of the stores, but our anchor in that mall was the Kroch’s & Brentanno’s book store. We spent a lot of time there, and a lot of money (when we had it). It was a time of discovery of our own interests and of each other’s interests. I can’t think of a better way to learn about a person than to see what they like to read. The combination of our young love, the Christmas season, and the book store has created a memory so agonizingly compelling that I’m amazed the universe doesn’t warp and suck me back to that place and time. But, of course, that will not come to pass. Somewhere in Time this is not.

And so, in this Christmas season, an old memory puts fresh pain upon my soul. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Life goes on, and the things that might make the season bright do not and cannot come to pass. So just hunker down and wait it out. Gratefully, Christmas comes but once a year.