Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

I hope everyone  had a blessed Christmas. My Christmas plans changed due to illness. My granddaughter was getting over the flu, so we didn't get together on Christmas Eve as we traditionally do. In fact, my son-in-law came by in his patrol car to pick up the doll beds that Santa's elves had been working feverishly on to finish. I wish that I had taken a picture of three doll beds in the trunk of a police cruiser. Who says that Santa doesn't have extra helpers? My three granddaughters begged me on the phone last night to bring them their Christmas presents. How could I say no? So I was up early this morning and loaded up the car to make my rounds. It just didn't seem fair to have all these unwrapped Christmas presents under the tree. My middle granddaughter got an art easel and promptly wrote two messages: "Thank you Santa," and "Happy Birthday Jesus!" My grandson also produced some artwork and also made his own elf on a shelf. It looks like we have a few budding artists in the family. My older granddaughter is also creative.

My grandson's drawing
My six-year old grandson's Elf on a Shelf. He cut it out and placed it on the entertainment center.

After going to see the girls and their happy faces (only because there were no fevers), I went to my older daughter's house for Christmas dinner: ham, sauteed brussels sprouts with bacon, sweet potato casserole and Sister Schubert rolls. Yummy! My grandson showed me the toys that Santa brought, such as his Doctor Who Tardis, Groot, action figure,  and Zoomer, the robot dog. My six year old grandson had also asked for a Doctor Who calendar. Each of the boys got their own little tree, such as the Grinch tree shown here.

And speaking of calendars, one of my gifts was a family desk calendar from Shutterfly that my daughters had ordered. I absolutely love it!

I stopped at my sister's house next, to drop off a few presents, as they were unable to come over, too. By the time I made it home I was as tired as one of Santa's elves at the North Pole. Now, back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Meaning of Christmas

I wait on people everyday on my job. The conversation usually goes like this: "Hello, how are you today? What can I do for you?" With Christmas just a few weeks away, it gives me something else to talk about besides the weather. I'll ask, "Are you ready for Christmas?" It amazes me how many negative responses I get. "I'm ready for Christmas to be over with" is one of the answers I hear frequently.

"Christmas is just not the same anymore. It's so commercialized" is another popular response. "I've been so busy, that I haven't had time" or "With my husband/father/mother (insert name) in the hospital, or trying to work/go to school/be a caregiver, it's a stressful time of year."

Work. Job loss. Poor health. Family problems. Loneliness. There are many things that cause people to be depressed and stressed during this time of year. My son-in-law, who is in law enforcement, told me that suicides rates are up this time of year. That's so sad, but it's true. We want things to be perfect. We want the "It's a Wonderful Life" happy ending. We want to see that hard-to-get-along-with relative of ours to have a "Scrooge"-like conversion. We want a 'White Christmas' on Christmas morning.

I think about all these wonderful things I want to do, the picture perfect decorating, the sumptuous feasts, the beautifully wrapped presents under my theme-based tree. I want to create gorgeous baskets of homemade goodies to give to all my friends. But I don't have the time to do it all, so I have to choose. For the last few years I've down-sized my Christmas decorating. I put up my table top tree and decorated it with my homemade ornaments made out of old Christmas cards that I've cut out and outlined with glitter. I hang up some simple candy canes and curling ribbon and my little tree is finished. I have a few miniature nativity sets, most which I found in thrift stores for a couple of dollars. Just the other day I found a whole nativity set: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, shepherds and manger animals, stuffed in ziplock bag for $2.99 and not a scratch or chip to be found. Of course I bought them.

It's easy to forget what the season is really all about. It's not about the decorating or the presents or how much money you have. It's about a baby, born in a humble stable, two thousand years ago, that was a gift to mankind, a gift from God.

Here's a photo of my tree last year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Christmas Ornament

When my oldest daughter was in the third grade, she became a “traitor” in our family. In Alabama there are only two football teams. One is Alabama and the other is Auburn. We were die-hard Alabama fans and my husband, Don, never missed a game. Then out of the blue, our oldest daughter decided that she wanted to to to Auburn University when she graduated from high school. I thought it would hurt my husband, but he never said a word. “It’s just a phase,” he joked, and then teased her, “No child of mine will ever go to that school.”

When Shannon graduated from high school she spent her first year living at home, working and attending the community college. By her Sophomore year, she was ready to transfer to Auburn. We packed up two cars and like thousands of other parents each Fall, tried to hide our anxiety and emotions, as we sent our oldest off to college. Shannon settled into her dorm, met her best friend on 'moving in' day, joined a local Christian fellowship group and last, but not least, bought a season pass to all the football games. That daughter of mine could talk football with the best and seasoned commentators and it simply amazed me. It amazed her father, too, that this former clarinet player in the high school band knew her football so well.

After her graduation she moved to Georgia, a few hours drive away. She and her father continued their mutual love of football. My husband and I had actually never attended a live Auburn football game, but one Fall my daughter arranged to get us tickets and she was going to meet us there. It happened to be the same week my husband had to undergo some serious medical tests. We hadn't yet told our daughters. I was worried and wanted to back out of the trip, but he didn't want to let her down, so we went. The test results came back the following week. It wasn't good. Cancer. Two weeks before Thanksgiving he started Chemotherapy.

Before Christmas that year my husband had ordered a special  Auburn football ornament for Shannon. It was the first in a series. She loved it. She came home every chance she could, now that her Dad was undergoing cancer treatments. It was naturally hard to leave each time and return to her job, knowing how ill her father was.

In March, a small package arrived in the mail. I opened it and there was another Christmas ornament, the second in a series. Had my husband already ordered another one, this early in the year? I put it away in the closet. The Chemo was taking a toll on my husband, but his spirit held strong. When his doctor told us that there was nothing else they could do, I called my oldest daughter to come home.  And I told her about the ornament that had come in the mail. I couldn't hold onto it until Christmas. I truly believed that this was God's way of letting her know that it was okay to let go.  God knew that her father wasn’t going to be there for the next Christmas.

Since then the ornaments have arrived like clockwork each year, each one uniquely designed with her favorite college colors, blue and orange. She has ten now and it is a gift from her father every year, a way of letting her know that he is still with her.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas in Dixie

When Don and I moved to Ft. Bliss, Texas in October, 1982 we were sad to move so far away from our families in the South. So you can imagine how happy we were when we found out a few months later that my sister and brother-in-law, Keith, were also going to be stationed at Ft. Bliss.
Keith was homesick as soon as he moved to El Paso. He was a country boy through and through, and gave up his long hair and beard when he signed up with Uncle Sam. It was summer when they arrived. Somehow... and I can't remember exactly how, but Keith found out that we had a copy of  "Christmas in Dixie",  the record by the group, Alabama. He took that record home and played it with tears streaming down his cheeks. In the middle of summer. My sister told me.

That Christmas Eve in 1983 was a blistering cold day with single digit temperatures. It was also the day of the Sun Bowl and Don and Keith had  tickets to go to the game.  They came in that evening half-frozen, but pumped from having seen Alabama  beat SMU.  After all, they got to see Coach Ray Perkins and had their pictures taken with a group of Bama fans (the picture ended up in the newspaper).  My brother-in-law said that they missed half the game trying to stay warm. The concession stands even ran out of hot cocoa. Still, if you can't be in Alabama, the next best thing is seeing your favorite team play football.

Keith didn't make the Army his career and got out after his tour of duty and went back home to work in an auto parts store. He got an opportunity to advance his career in management and took a job in Birmingham. Seven months later he was killed in a random act of violence on his way home from work. He was 30 years old.

I can't listen to "Christmas in Dixie" to this day without thinking about my brother-in-law and the  good and decent man that he was. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Pocketbook

It was Christmas  1966 and we were living in middle Tennessee. My father was in Vietnam.  As a young mother of five children, with me being the oldest at nine years, my mother let me help with the Christmas shopping and wrapping that year. We went to the Dollar General on the downtown square and bought toys for my younger siblings. My mother bought me a boxed jewelry set and one of those eau de toilette sets that every little girl wanted.  We usually got new pajamas and new hats and mittens if we needed them.  I'm sure that my baby sister got a new rattle. I felt like a grown-up keeping the Christmas secrets along with my mother.

On Christmas Eve we went to our grandparents' house. My grandparents didn't have much, but I don't remember how poor they were,  just Grandma's sweet spirit and her homemade cooking and how there was always room for one more  around the dining room table. My uncle, still in his teens, came in that Christmas Eve with a bag full of gifts. He emptied the sack on the table. He must have spent his entire paycheck on presents for us. There were presents for everyone and for me there was a pocketbook.

There are certain Christmas memories that always stand out. That Christmas, in 1966, is one of them.