Here's what I think about that.
When I was a girl, my mom made Christmas so special. It all started with the arrival of the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog, fittingly called the "Wish Book". My sisters and I poured over the pages until we had them memorized. We dog-eared the pages with our favorites on them. I remember always wanting something unique that no one else would want. A ventriloquist doll. A unicycle. Wishing for gifts was different than it is nowadays. We didn't get things all throughout the year like kids do now. So when Christmas rolled around, there was no shortage of things on our list. The list had been forming since the Christmas before!! From that catalog we shopped for presents for our parents, too. I remember ordering my dad a penny that was inside a very small sealed glass dome. Hmmm. Yeah. I don't really remember Dad asking for a penny in glass dome. I was a different kind of kid. My sisters will vouch. Anyway, as I was saying, we decorated the tree with silver icicles. Now you and I both know when you put those things in the hands of three little girls and turn them loose you can wind up with a tree that looks....well, certainly not from the pages of Southern Living!
A few weeks before Christmas, presents would begin to appear under the tree. My sisters and I couldn't wait to get home from school to see if there were more. I remember Mom fixing hot chocolate for us and how she would sit with us and watch us shake our presents as we'd try to guess what was in them. It didn't seem to matter that the presents weren't arranged "just so" under the tree. Presents were for shaking! Johnny Mathis must have been playing in the background, because that music is permanently etched in my mind. The vinyl record is on my stereo at this very moment!
In all our excitement, my sisters and I would all sleep in the same room on Christmas Eve. We would whisper about what Santa might bring. My stomach was always unsettled with excitement. I would stay awake as long as I could, straining my ears to hear even a hint of what was going on beyond our closed door! Christmas morning came early. Mom and Dad would get up and we'd hear them say..."Looks like Santa came!" We had to wait in our room until the coffee was made. Mom and Dad would pour them a cup and call us in to the living room. In two seconds the whole house dissolved into giggles and screams of delight and a mountain of wrapping paper.
As a child I knew the story of the birth of Jesus, but as children we don't connect all the dots. What my parents did very well, though, was to paint a picture of joy and hope at Christmastime. It was a time when everything was possible. It was a time where my heart just felt different. I knew that when I was very young, and as I grew older that hope had a name and the name was Jesus.
When we had children, I discovered that I had learned well from my mother. So many of the traditions I carried on. And we added a few of our own, like camping out under the tree a few nights before Christmas. I gained a whole new admiration for what my mother had done to make Christmas a special and beautiful time. A million little things.
I loved every minute of having children at Christmas. I loved the Christmas Eve service at our church and how we'd all circle the entire Sanctuary with the lights out and candles lit and sing "Silent Night". I loved our pastor reading from the bible that the light of the world was born. I looked at my children and saw their faces glowing with excitement in the candlelight. And I saw hope.
I loved how after church we would head home and have yummy Christmas foods that we would make special just for that time of year. Soon we'd say, "The sooner you get to bed, the sooner Santa will come." That's what my parents used to say. I loved how they camped out in the same room on Christmas Eve and how we could hear their whispering, giggling voices into the night! I loved every single Christmas morning when the kids waited at the top of the stairs while Todd and I got our cups of coffee. I loved the quiet times that came later in the day, when we could sit with each of them as they showed how something worked or taught us how to play a new game.
So I'm sitting here this morning thinking how Christmas looks different this year. It will be Todd and me until Christmas Eve, when two of our three will make it home. Work has Todd on the rode a good portion of week...which means long, late hours. He brought home a beautiful tree for us. The next night, while I waited up for him to come home, I decorated the tree. Johnny Mathis played on the stereo. I fixed myself a cup of hot orange spice tea. I pulled each ornament out and hung it on the tree...handmade ornaments with the kid's faces and hand prints on them...an ornament Todd and I bought years ago on a trip to Nantucket....an ornament that says, "now we are 'three'", symbolizing our first Christmas with a child. I took my time remembering the significance of each one. By decorating standards, my tree is way overcrowded, but I can't bring myself to leave off a single one. I can still remember my dad looking at our tree one year and saying, "That's exactly what a tree should look like". And so it always will.
If you have a visual of a sad, lonely woman decorating a tree by herself in your mind, erase it immediately! You know that feeling you have when you get in your car and it's so cold you can hardly touch the steering wheel until the heat kicks in and you turn it on high and let it blast you in the face. Well that's the kind of warmth that wrapped me up when I decorated my tree this year. God gave me the gift of a quiet evening to marvel at the years of Christmas blessings he has heaped on our family. And I, like Mary, "treasured these things in my heart".
The way Christmastime looks at my house changes every year. Sometimes it will be lively with family and friends, and I'm sure some years will be quiet. But the hope that is at the very root of it all will never change. And on those Christmas seasons that are more quiet than others, I pray God will remind me to be thankful for the gift of time to sit and marvel at his indescribable gift.
By the way, about the unicycle and the ventriloquist doll. The unicycle was something I never mastered. But let me say that had I really committed to the art of ventriloquism, I could have been the next Shari Lewis. I didn't want to leave you hanging! Merry Christmas!
|And she hung her memories on her tree.|