My childhood memories of Christmas are some of the very best. Not only were they spent with my immediate family, but my cousins were always present for holidays. My uncle was a dean at Purdue University so his schedule permitted him to bring his family up the minute that classes ended, and stay through the New Year holiday. These were grand times and ones that cemented lasting relationships. My cousin Ruth remains one of my best friends.

Because they would often arrive days before the actual holiday, we children were relegated to the basement with shouts of “Go play” as my mother and aunt were busy in our very small kitchen preparing special treats or wrapping last minute presents. Lunch was even served in the basement to keep us from getting under foot or ruining a Santa Claus surprise.

To entertain ourselves, we would organize plays reenacting our favorite Christmas scenes. One of my favorites was the year we took the carol “We Three Kings” and made our own special play. The oldest kids got to be the Kings, Mary and Joseph, while the younger kids were the shepherds and stable animals. I believe we couldn’t trust anyone to be Jesus, so a baby doll took the part. Bathrobes and towel turbans were worn by all as we circled the basement over and over and over again perfecting our roles. The premier performance took place for our parents at noon on Christmas Eve. Every time that I hear “We Three Kings” I lovingly think of my family home, my cousins, our folks and the love we all shared. These were memories that have lasted my lifetime.

Memories are the thoughts that connect our history to today. Though they may at times get dusty, each time we claim them, we are bombarded with emotions, good and bad. What can we do to help keep our memories intact?  Dr. William Bortz in his book "The Roadmap to 100, the Breakthrough Science of Living a Long and Healthy Life" outlined a few helpful things. First, stay active physically and get exercise. Second, challenge your brain, learn something new.  Next, have a positive attitude, say yes to new experiences. And last but not least, minimize stress, which is according to Dr. Bortz, “the gateway to a broad spectrum of health issues.”

I hope you have a favorite holiday memory that will warm your heart and put a smile on your face this season. Enjoy each day of this magical season as you prepare for a new year that will be filled with new beginnings.