Story time a treasured part of Christmases past

From the moment I realized Dan and I would have only one child, I've worked very hard to not be too nostalgic about Ainsley growing up.

I've heard parents talk about the last diaper they will change, the last first day of preschool, the last elementary school concert they will attend. With just one child, every time a stage ends, it's the last time. I was so determined not to get caught up in looking back that I forgot to pay attention to the present.

I think I've been fairly successful. But I find the older Ainsley gets - and the older I get - I have trouble avoiding nostalgia, especially at the holidays.

I find myself scrolling through photos on my phone, looking for pictures of a younger Ainsley at Christmastime. I love the ones of her on Christmas Eve at the 900 North Michigan building, standing in front of the giant tree, with her cup of hot chocolate at breakfast or visiting with Santa. My favorite is of her sitting on Santa's lap when she was 6. She's wearing my favorite Christmas outfit, a plaid skirt and a T-shirt depicting an adorable reindeer with a matching plaid bow. Santa is reading the letter she wrote him. It's nothing short of adorable.

I have to confess I miss dressing her up in little outfits and putting bows in her hair. I miss watching Christmas episodes of her favorite TV shows like "Little Bear" or "Franklin." Most of all, I miss reading Christmas stories to her each night before bed.

I had several favorites that I enjoyed at least as much as she did.

My cousin sent her a book called "Humphrey's First Christmas" when she was just 2. The story tells of a camel named Humphrey who is traveling with a caravan of three kings. Humphrey is quite displeased with the journey, what with his missing blanket and the heavy chests he has to carry. But when the group reaches Bethlehem and he catches his first glimpse of the baby shivering in the manager, his attitude changes and he is overwhelmed by love. This simple story by Carol Heyer, who also created the wonderful illustrations, always helped me remember what Christmas is really all about.

"Olive the Other Reindeer," which I first discovered years ago when my best friend's daughters were little, is another favorite. Olive is living the contented life of a dog when she hears the popular Christmas carol and comes to the conclusion that she must be a reindeer. She has quite an adventure traveling to the North Pole, joining Santa's team and helping to save Christmas.

"Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree" is the sweet story of a too-tall Christmas tree and the joy even the smallest tree can bring to any household.

"The Quiltmaker's Gift" is not really a Christmas story, but its message about the joy of giving and what's really important in life - along with beautiful illustrations - make it a holiday favorite for me.

And, of course, I can't forget, "The Night Before Christmas." I loved the drawings in Ainsley's board book. They reminded me of my own childhood, when I tried to learn the poem by heart and always was tripped up by "As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky."

I might suggest a family reading night to revisit these childhood favorites, but I doubt it will meet with her approval. If I'm lucky, she'll agree to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas," just to humor me. I'll take it.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].