HIT THE GROUND RUNNING: You never (should) outgrow Christmas magic


About a week ago, I was hunting endlessly for the Dickey House Elf on the Shelf, fondly named Marty. For the life of me, I could not find that elf. 

I searched every box of the Christmas decorations and ornaments. I climbed up to the loft in our garage and rummaged around. I hoisted myself up on the counters in the kitchen and looked inside every cabinet, closet, and crevice throughout the house – but I still couldn’t find Marty.

Eve, my 12-year-old daughter, walked in on my self-imposed hide and seek and asked me what I was doing. 

“I’m looking for Marty,” I replied. 

The irony wasn’t lost on me. Less than three years ago, Eve would have been the one ransacking the house trying to find the red-hatted elf, now she simply laughed at her crazy mom. 

At that moment I realized – the magic of Christmas has forever changed in our home. 

My daughters are 12 and 16. Christmas looks a whole lot different now. 

Wishlists have become links sent via text as they scroll through their social media.

Our Advent calendar is still sitting on Dec. 3

Santa’s journey most likely won’t be tracked on NORAD this year.

Even the CD my husband made in 2007 full of our favorite Christmas songs skips and has been replaced with Alexa randomly playing holiday tunes.

A few days after my hour-long hunt for Marty (who, by the way, I still haven’t found), I found myself thinking back on my conversation with Eve while I ran through the neighborhoods in the early morning hours surrounded by Christmas lights. 

“Where is the magic for me this year?” I asked myself. At that moment I really didn’t have an answer.

Fast forward to Saturday, Dec. 18,–my best friend, Jen, asked if Eve could go along with her and her daughter to the Cocoa Crawl downtown for the morning before going to see the movie “Elf” at 2 p.m.

Of course, Eve could go along, I said, thinking it would give me some time to get started on the essays I wanted to grade and other school responsibilities I have to do before winter break. 

When Jen came to pick Eve up, she said she had an extra ticket and asked if I wanted to go. 

“No, that’s OK,” I said, mentally listing all the stuff I wanted to accomplish.

They weren’t gone 10 minutes when I started to think back to that early morning run.

“Where is the magic this year?”

At that moment, I realized that I have been letting the magic pass right by me. 

Sure, things have changed.

My girls have gotten older—they no longer talk endlessly about staying up to catch Santa—but that doesn’t mean Christmas and the entire season have to be any less special.

Change doesn’t have to be bad. 

Memories don’t have to stop being made.

With that in mind, I drove in to town and quickly joined in on the Cocoa Crawl, only missing one spot. The four of us spent the morning exploring new shops we had never been in, tasting so many types of hot chocolate that our stomachs were full, and laughing with each other over the hundreds of times we burnt our tongues or spilled our cocoa.

As I drove home late that afternoon, I realized that the schoolwork and other responsibilities will always be there. 

There will always be one more essay to grade or one more task to complete, but my time with the people I love in this magical season will quickly pass.

Later that evening, we finally decorated our Christmas tree and the looks on my girls’ faces and the laughter that filled our home illustrated that even though the appearance of the magic of the season has changed, it hasn’t been lost. 

Emily Dickey is a Waynesboro native who run for fun and always looks for an opportunity to spread the sunshine.

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