“Mom, what do you want for Christmas? And don’t say nothing!”

“All I want is happy children.”

Frustrated at the same answer received every year, my kids stomped out of the room leaving me with, “Come on mom, there has to be something we can buy you!” But the truth was – happy children were all I ever wanted.

Last year, when the question surfaced again, I decided to tell them about a dream that’d been on my wish list for years. “Well, if you really want to know, I want us all to spend a day together in Disneyland.”

Looking at me as if I’d completely lost my mind, Michelle quizzically asked, “You’ve got to be kidding. Why do you want to go there?” Afraid to tell the real truth, for fear she’d think my sappy demeanor had gone completely over the edge, I simply responded with, “I love that place.”

For the next nine months, I nagged, pleaded, pestered and cajoled until they finally agreed on a date in October that wouldn’t conflict with any college football game, class reunion, wedding or other item of  fun on their busy social calendar.

“Mom, I still don’t get why this is so important to you? That place is stupid, plus it’s a zoo on the weekends.” Lauren stated somewhat annoyed. “I hate crowds.”

“I know honey, but I want to go – and you guys promised.”

The day finally arrived and their whining stopped. They knew they had a commitment to live up to, so they decided to play along with the charade and pretended to be excited. Piling into our black SUV, Lauren slid a CD into the car stereo with songs from favorite Disney movies and,, at the top of our lungs, the four of us sang as we made the hour long trek from Michelle’s apartment, in Los Angeles, to the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

“When we get there, the first thing we’re going to do is buy a hat!” I proudly announced.

“What?” they all asked horrified. Going was torture enough, but the thought of walking around the park with Mickey Mouse ears on their head was more than they could handle. “We said we’d come. We didn’t say we’d agree to look like dorks!”

“Yep! You’re going to each pick out something fun. Then we’re riding everything in the park, especially “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

For the next five hours we looked ridiculous as we stood in lines long enough to aggravate even the most patient visitors. We ate popcorn, greasy hamburgers and French fries, churrors, cookies, ice cream and nearly threw up on “Space Mountain” after our bodies were whipped in every direction. At five o’clock, sitting on a park bench at the end of Main Street too exhausted to move anymore, my son put his arm around me and asked, “Mom, you know we’d have gone anywhere with you, why was it so important to come here?”

As I studied the face of my baby, who was now a man with a ridiculous “Pirates of the Caribbean” hat on, I immersed myself in the memory of the day and said, “I just wanted to go back to the beginning with you  kids, even if only for a few hours.”

One of my favorite recollections is the time we spent in this magical, whimsical place. The rush of excitement as we entered the park and all four went running in different directions to find their favorite ride. There were the pictures with Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and Donald Duck and the belief that fairy tales really do come true as we walked through the castle to Fantasyland. While I treasure those precious and innocent times, there’s nothing like the real thing and for one day, I wanted it back.

When our lives began together, one by one twenty-seven years ago, we were basically strangers starting out on a journey. Although biologically connected, there was so much to learn. As with any new and loving relationship, there are steps we went through to discover one another and that took time, sometimes even years. Today, my children are all adults, in their twenties and on their own. The five of us are joined at the hip and bonded in our souls, but, (as it should be) they’re creating their own lives that don’t always include their mother.  Going back in time, back to the beginning, when I was the center of their universe, links me to the person I used to be. It helps me remember where I’ve been, what I’ve done and how much I have grown through the years – how much we’ve all grown.

The holiday season is a perfect time to remember and re-live. Each year, I force my brood to repeat moments that made me smile long ago.  The making of pizza on Christmas Eve and losing the dough on the ceiling after too much aggressive twirling. Laying under the tree in our new PJ’s waiting for Santa to arrive, (while sneaking bites of the cookies Jenni left on the fireplace). Handing out McDonald’s gift certificates to the homeless in San Francisco, but my favorite of all is watching old videos of naked Haugh babies screaming and laughing as they dart through the house, jumping in the pool or peddled their tricycles around the patio. For a brief period, we are transfixed back to a place when life was simple and uncomplicated – back to were it all began.

The greatest gift we can ever give anyone is the gift of our time. The time we share with one another. This Christmas I hope you too spend a few moments and go “back to the beginning” with the people you love. As you relive old memories, you’ll be reminded it was all good, plus you’ll be paving the way for new ones too.