Thursday, December 8, 2016

If We Make it through December

While decorating this morning, I put a country music Christmas CD in the player. Merle Haggard’s song “If We Make it through December” brought about a heart-weary nostalgic feeling.

In many ways, that song was the story of our lives in the early, struggling years when our kids were little. Instead of being the joyful time of “Jingle Bells,” December was the most stressful time of the year.

The cold, winter weather became an endurance test. We lived in drafty old houses that were hard to heat and slept under cold-weather rated sleeping bags to stay warm. That is, when we could sleep. I remember Jim getting up all hours of the night to start the car so that it would start the next morning. Of course, it was futile if the roads were drifted shut.

Just to add to the anxiety, there was always the problem of coughing up enough money to fill the propane tank. One year, right before Christmas, we filled our tank just to have it all leak out during a snowstorm. The truck came back and only because the driver was determined, he managed to get close enough to the tank to re-fill it.

Too often jolly, ho-ho-ho people don’t realize how hard the holidays are for those who have lost a loved one. Christmas doesn’t seem the same when someone you’ve always celebrated with is no longer there. When a white Christmas turns into a blue Christmas, it isn’t easy to exorcise that pesky inner Grinch and infuse oneself with the joy of the season.

A decade of Christmases were changed because of Jim’s dementia. The first few years were a blessing in that being a grandpa gave him a new joy in Christmas. Later, I ate Christmas dinner with him at the nursing home. The meal would be a mixture of nursing home prepared and care packages from his mom.

We are all individuals with countless memories of Christmas. Memories could be of a time of separation, grief, heartache, loneliness, and the bitter cold of winter. Other memories could be the elation of happy reunions, the perfect gift—given or received, the look on a grandchild’s face, hugs, a heart overflowing with love, and a landscape of glittery, fluffy snow.

My memories of Christmas are as packed and varied as Santa’s bag. Opening memories are much like unwrapping gifts at random. Which gift shall I open next? Will it be the booby prize? Will it be a heart-leaping memory of joy? Happy? Sad?

Although the song this morning brought back some bittersweet times of December, I choose to focus more on the precious memories I have of Christmas past. As I put up my village this morning, I was reminded of the time when my grandson Colby was just a little kid and helped me with the village.

I put the cotton batting “snow” on a small table. “You take the houses out of the boxes and I’ll set them on the table,” I said.

Colby went to work. He opened the boxes, peeled off the protective tissue, tossed the boxes and tissue in the floor, and handed me the houses. When we finished, we admired the village. Then Colby looked around and said, “We sure did make a big mess, Grandma Linda.”

I had to laugh and agree. “We sure did!”

Christmas wouldn’t have been Christmas without a huge dinner prepared by my mother-in-law. The house would be overflowing with family and the air fragrant with turkey, ham, homemade light rolls, and pies. The table would groan beneath the weight of the food. The house and yard would be overflowing with family. Remembering those special times, makes it easy to feel the jolliness of Christmas.

Now, Christmas is a quiet time at our house. We will have our get-together with the kids and grandkids this Sunday. I plan on going to candlelight services on Christmas Eve. I believe some quiet reflection on the real reason for Christmas may be an excellent way to put it all in perspective. It seems like a good way to blend all memories into a greater meaning of life, love, and the reason for the season.

Copyright © December 2016 by L.S. Fisher

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