Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Christmas Memories # 21
Every year I tell myself I'm finished at least three days before Christmas only to find out that... I'm not. So we'll see how it goes this year.
I don't know how it is with anyone else but sometimes I get all knotted up at this time of the year, wondering if I got the right thing for So-and-So and did I spend as much on this person as I did on that person, etc. And then there's the nagging little question in the back of my mind: did I forget anyone? (Usually the answer is "yes"; hence the last minute trek on Christmas Eve). And then there's the wrapping to do.. Really don't envy Santa and the Elves at the N. Pole..
Somehow, I don't think Christmas is meant to be this way. As I think back over Christmases past, these are some cameo "shots" that filter through my mind:
As children, my friends and I deciding we would re-enact the Nativity story for our parents. Didn't happen because we got in a fight over who would get to play the part of Mary...
As a teen-ager, I remember that a relative of my mom's passed away on Christmas Day. He was elderly and had been a bit of a prima dona all his life, someone who had been successful in some ways but unfaithful to his wife (who was pretty much a saint), that type of thing. I remember listening to the adults discuss the man's passing (out of earshot of his wife and kids) and I heard one person say, "That's just like so-and-so to turn up his toes on Christmas day! He allus did have to be the center of attention..." I was shocked but when I passed that along to my mom, she just looked thoughtful and said, "Well, there's definitely some truth in that..." :)
Still as a young adult, I remember seeing my four-year-old niece, Susan, perform in a Christmas play. She was an angel, dressed in satin, and she certainly looked the part! What a beautiful little face! But in the middle of the play, she suddenly turned to the boy next to her, shook her finger right in his face and we could see that little mouth moving as she apparently told him how the cow ate the cabbage. In response, he just plopped right down on the floor and stayed as still as a mouse throughout the rest of the program. Apparently he had been bothering her and she'd had enough!
Still in my twenties, I remember when my niece, Laura, was born in Nov. - almost a Christmas baby. At one point, the doctor couldn't detect signs of life when Laura was in the womb and so for a few weeks, we were afraid she wasn't going to make it. But she did. She was born into a time of great turmoil. Her mother was mentally ill and her father was trying to hold the family together as best he could. What I remember about that first Christmas is that Laura was probably the best baby I've ever seen. She continued to be sweet-natured and calm through out her first year and I felt like God gifted her that way because my poor brother-in-law couldn't have handled it had she been sick or colicky.
And then the Dec. that my mom died, exactly ten days after I got the call from the nurse saying mom was going, I got an early morning call - the exact same time as the week and a half before - telling me that my sister-in-law was in labor and her husband was taking her to the hospital. Both calls came at 5:30 in the morning. A piece of trivia perhaps, but it meant a lot to me (and still does) because somehow it seemed promising to have news of impending death eclipsed by the joyous news of impending birth.
As I think back over these memories, I really can't recall many gifts at all that I received - almost none - even though I know I was inundated with stuff when I was growing up and I've never been lacking for presents as an adult. The things I would love to have now are not... things. I would love to be able to go back and re-visit past Christmases - partly to check my memory, partly to see by-gone celebrations through adult eyes now. Did my mom stress over getting the right present for everyone? Did she worry about whether or not she spent the same amount on each person?
But most of all, I'd like to go back to see the people that I once knew and probably took for granted. People I can't see any more but will someday.
When I get stressed over finding and wrapping the "perfect present", it helps me to stop and remember that in the long run, it really won't matter. At all. What will matter is who I had the privilege of sharing Christmas with. And I hope that I have the wisdom to keep that in mind as I go through the coming days.