Thursday, December 12, 2013

A most joyous Christmas memory

I love Christmas!! Always have and always will. I love the shopping, the cooking, the visiting and even the cleaning. Everything that goes along with making Christmas bright makes me happy.

Imagine my surprise when my granddaughter asked if I'd ever thought about doing Christmas in January? She'd been considering it so she'd have the money to buy everyone on her list, and those even remotely related to her a present. I used this opportunity to reveal my thoughts about celebrating Christmas and what it means to me.

One night, eons ago, a star shone so brightly that even Kings dropped what they were doing and journeyed on foot (or on the backs of camels) to witness this miraculous event.
Common barn animals looked on in awe as the newborn uttered his first sounds while his mother wrapped him in swaddling clothes despite the expensive gifts laid at the babe's feet. Even though only a few were witness to this event, here we are, thousands of years later, re-telling the tale. Peace, Hope, and Love. God's greatest gift to all of mankind. To be celebrated. To be embraced. To be treasured and shared in our hearts and in the hearts of our children and their children on Christmas day. Without all the tinsel and fuss. Love for our neighbor, our family... a gift all its own.

And then, because grownups love to talk about how things were in their childhood, I went back. A long, way back-in-the-olden days, and shared with her a Christmas memory of mine and what made it so special.

The Tree

It was the first Christmas my brother and I would have without my father living in the house, since he and mom had divorced. Back in the sixties, women made very little money and I can remember our mom was always busy, ironing clothes or caring for the old lady down the street. We didn't have extra money to buy things other than the necessities, like food and heat. Presents were definitely not on the list that holiday season.
Still, as December progressed, my brother and I believed something good was bound to happen. We had faith that Christmas would prevail...somehow.

A snowy Christmas Eve found us hanging around the Xmas tree lot (a roped off  part of the Marathon gas station)  and trying to decide which of the remaining trees were the biggest. We brushed against thick, fluffy spruce and I remember the sticky feel and smell of cedar pine clinging to my fingers. It was nearly dark and the attendant- Mr. Pen, asked us if we had our tree yet. "No," we didn't.

Miraculously, he invited us to the pick of the lot, free of charge! Free! Nada! Zip! Eagerly we whipped through the maze of trees together stopping in front of the towering beauty. I can still recall the thrill of holding the pointy top-end of the biggest tree left while my brother held tight to the bottom. Working as a team we marched home with our beautiful Christmas tree.

Mom's face registered shock, then tears when she opened the door and stood aside as we struggled to get it inside our apartment. She agreed we could decorate it but confessed there wouldn't be anything to put underneath it. "We don't care," we said, and grabbed the paper chains and sparkly Styrofoam balls hanging from the window ledge. Before long we were stringing popcorn as mom hauled out a box of old ornaments. She told us how much she enjoyed stringing the silver icicles and her face glowed as she carefully placed them, one long strand after another, shimmering on the tree. At some point she must have put on Christmas music because I heard the soft carols being sung in the background.

Finally, the tree was finished and she turned off the lamp so we could watch the red, blue and green flashing lights. I'll never forget the warm embrace as she pulled me onto her lap and how my brother crawled up beside her in the chair- crowded, cozy and content. And we sang every Christmas song we knew, in the flickering glow, in the chair, together.

That was a Christmas to remember. And I've never forgotten how blessed I felt to have gotten such a wonderful tree. I'll always remember Mr. Pen, the nice old man who dressed in dirty coveralls and worked all year long on cars and repaired bicycle tires, except for last part of December when he made room in his lot for Christmas trees and opened his heart to us.

Oh, and the best part. Early Christmas morning I woke to hear someone banging on the door. I could smell cornbread and onions coming from the kitchen. I'd fallen asleep on the couch and was the first one to see my dad arrive, covered in snow and carrying an armload of gifts.

It was the best Christmas I ever knew.

Here's wishing you a most joyous holiday with family and friends.

Merry Christmas!!