No lollygagging in bed this morning. Wanted to get my sauce and meat-a-balls started, readying for a Christmas get-together I’m hosting this weekend (hopefully the weather will cooperate, since most people do not like my driveway on a good day). Right now, I am watching the wind blow white from gray tree limbs and am content to be in a house that smells like woodstove and home.
Gifts and wrapping paper are strewn across the dining room and a tree, no larger or fuller than Charlie Brown’s sits in the front window. Today is my day to get into the ‘holiday spirit’. And, I will. I will think about Christmas’ past and the year Santa brought me a sparkly pink bicycle with a banana seat and butterfly handlebars, no training wheels! Or how we’d visit my Nonie on Christmas Eve – climb the dark, narrow stairs to her apartment, smelling stinky fish fried in dough (my father’s favorite) and plain fried dough topped with sugar (my favorite). Much later we’d drive home searching the sky for reindeer.
I will remember the very first Christmas in my own apartment. My son and I determined to have a real tree. And we did…but who knew you needed a tree-stand to set it in, so it leaned in our bathtub for days and we showered around it.
I will think about my brother, Joey. How for several years, we used to wake each other (way early) on Christmas morning, open all our presents and start playing with them before anyone else was even up. And I will realize these were the years my oldest brothers were in the military – in Vietnam, in Okinawa, in Germany. Several Christmas’ without one or the other or both. How difficult it must have been for our Mom and Dad. How bottomless, their grief.
I recall one Christmas (late 60’s probably) when Joey and I set the tree up ourselves. A few days before school let out and it was still in a box in the cellar. Neither older brother would be home for the holidays that year and the house was empty of spirit. Joey and I pulled out the tree, a box of random ornaments and silver garland leftover from the year before. We postured that we weren’t decorating for us. We were doing it for our parents and our little brother, Chris.
Yet, when we called them into the room, it was one of the only times I ever saw my mother cry. And I remember thinking how small, how shrunken my father looked. And still, at the time, I felt disappointed in them both. Not understanding where their hearts were (I was only maybe 9 or 10). I was just a little girl who wanted to hold onto the merry and the magic of Christmas…a little bit longer.
So, when you feel like you are getting too caught up in the stress and strain of the season, step back and breathe. Instead of standing in line for that ugly sweater, remember those who cannot be here for the holidays. Take the time to send them your love, your thanks, your prayers. Embrace their families, their friends.
And hold tight to those you love. They are your most precious gifts…