Saturday, November 28, 2009

Let it Glow

Black Friday is theoretically the biggest shopping day of the year, but I did my share of helping the economy during my Branson trip. Friday, I slept late and spent the day leisurely dragging out my Christmas decorations. I usually start with my Old World Santas, but this year began with the nutcrackers instead. With careful arrangement, most of the nutcrackers fit on the shelf above my entertainment center.

It was a beautiful day and ideal weather to string the lights on the back deck. Last year, the day of our family get-together, a friend and I wound the lights around the railing wearing gloves and heavy coats.

Once the tree was up and the fiber optic bear lit, it was time to relax with a spot of tea and flip the switch for the lights. I’m still a far cry from the Griswolds, but this as glowing as lights get around my house.

It’s not like me to decorate for Christmas this early, but for some reason, I was compelled to begin on Black Friday. I’ve enjoyed a leisurely vacation this week staying close to home. I worked on my manuscript, but didn’t push it too much and opted for some much needed downtime.

Several years ago, we de-stressed Christmas by changing our tradition. When we have our family gathering, each adult brings an inexpensive gift to exchange. I buy educational CDs for my grandchildren and a few small gifts.

When I was unloading the Christmas totes yesterday, it was bittersweet. I found the tiny Christmas tree I used to put in Jim’s room at the nursing home. I came across a framed snapshot I always set out during the holidays. It is a picture of Jim, me and our oldest grandson sitting on the living room floor in front of the Christmas tree. Jim is wearing his denim jacket, Vietnam Veteran’s cap, and dark sunglasses. The picture is not dated, but this outfit was his hallmark of early dementia.

One year, when I put photographs in a box to clear the shelves for decorations, Jim took them out of the box and set them back on the shelf. He didn’t want me to change things, he wanted familiar family pictures.

Pictures freeze a small moment in time. Can I remember what I was thinking at the moment the camera snapped? Maybe not, but the look we share is filled with love and happiness.

This will be my fifth Christmas without Jim. Christmas is probably the hardest holiday for people who have lost a loved one. From childhood we build high expectations of what Christmas should be and are disappointed when it doesn’t reach the level we anticipated. Once we understand that the greatest gifts are not wrapped in shiny paper and topped with bows, we are free to celebrate the real gifts in life.

This year, I look forward to the holiday season with an inner peace and joyfulness I haven’t felt for a long time. My joy has nothing to do with shopping, buying or receiving presents. It has to do with family and friends, to love and be loved.

A picture perfect Christmas needs snow and glistening trees. One Christmas refrain is, “Let it snow!” A heart perfect Christmas needs love and hope. When I flip the switch and the house is aglow with Christmas lights, my expectation is that the brightest glow will be in my heart and on my face.

Here’s to wishing your holiday refrain will be “Let it glow!”
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