Christmas Memories That Have Given Me Joy Through the Years

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by Ari Anderson |

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Main graphic for "Soaring With Hope," a column by Ari Anderson

It may be annoying to some, but I’m one of those people who look forward to Christmas starting in October. Sorry, not sorry. So many of my favorite memories are either directly or indirectly related to this special day.

If you ask my mom, she wouldn’t consider Christmas Eve 1984 to be one of her favorite memories. That was the day I was admitted to the hospital, which turned into a 13-month stay because of constant pneumonia.

Instead of looking at Dec. 24, 1984, as the beginning of one of my darkest periods, I see it as the origin of the privileged life I lead today. During that year-plus in the hospital, my medical team figured out better techniques to clear my lungs. It took a lot of trial and error, as well as thinking outside the box. However, what they found worked, and it has stood the test of time.

I finally got out of the hospital on Jan. 29, 1986. As a result of those stellar medical techniques, I didn’t have to go back because of pneumonia until Feb. 2, 2006. I haven’t been back to the hospital because of a respiratory infection since then, though I’ve had a couple of surgeries for kidney stones.

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By the way, you’re probably wondering how I can pull all these exact dates off the top of my head. It’s just a talent of mine to remember almost every day of my entire life. This is true even though I was only 2 years old in 1984.

Another favorite Christmas memory of mine is when my family received a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) on Dec. 25, 1987. The next morning, I became fascinated when I awoke to a family member playing Super Mario Bros. in my room, where he’d had this gaming console hooked up. I was 5 years old, and the NES captured my imagination.

Even though the gaming controls 35 years ago weren’t accessible for the limited movement of my hands, I never got tired of watching others play, and I never gave up hope of finding a way to play myself. My long-held dream of playing video games independently came true for me 10 years ago, when I first heard about turn-based games, which don’t require quick hand movements and allow you to take your time.

This is a lesson that you should never give up on your dreams, even if they take decades to come true. A 1987 Christmas wish to be able to play video games myself became the foundation of the fun and relaxation that I enjoy today.

Sitting in front of our Christmas tree to enjoy the colorful lights is another favorite childhood memory. The lights would give me a special tingly feeling, which I haven’t let go of as an adult. Now, instead of a tree, I have 32 feet of lights strung up across a wall in my room.

The lights are programmable, so I can independently create literally millions of colorful patterns, using controls adapted for my use. This is yet another example of how technology has transformed me from a passive observer to an active participant.

I maintain the wondrous Christmas feeling these lights provide by leaving them up all year long.

Another holiday tradition I have to mention is Will Vinton’s “Claymation Christmas Celebration,” a 1987 TV special. I know it’s not as popular today as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman,” but it brings back so many holiday and nonholiday memories for me.

When my sister and I were very young in the late 1980s, we went on two-hour road trips to a relative’s house. A couple of hours on the road seem like an eternity to small children. My sister and I would perk up a little bit when my mom would put in the soundtrack cassette for “Claymation Christmas Celebration.” It’s amazing the odd things some of us remember.

All these special feelings for material objects have no comparison to the love I feel for my savior. His birth is the real reason why I celebrate, and that, to me, is eternal. Objects are temporary.

So when I or you are having a bad day, we can look back on fond memories that put a smile on our face. These special feelings can keep our spirits soaring, especially when we share them with others.

As always, thank you for letting me share my feelings and memories with all of you!

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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