Christmas Gone is my Christmas Present
As I've aged, I have realized that Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas until it's over.
It's not until after all the baking ingredients are bought, baked and consumed that I find Christmas.
Christmas for me happens long after a turkey is stuffed, baked and devoured. It's not until after the gifts are all purchased, wrapped and given, and family has come and gone, that I can find that childhood Christmas peace the season's about. The gift of peace that became evident because of that first Christmas.
The house is now quiet from it's annual Christmas Day celebration. The fancy nut and chocolate dishes are left with a small array of what once was. The baking that earlier slid from overladen platters is evident only from crumbs on the many dessert plates scattered and hidden around the room. Punch glasses in varying degrees of half empty and half filled compete with dessert plates for position. The kitchen is filled with dirty plates, cups and bowls that we only use for fancy occasions. It's a special kind of mess, thats all around the house that's only at Christmas.
"Let's leave all this cleanup till tomorrow and go to bed." The wife directs as she tops the stairs. "You coming?" She asks, more out of courtesy than a need to know.
"No" I'm just going to drain the last of the coffee from this pot and enjoy the lights on the tree for a while." I respond, knowing she can't hear me anyway behind the bathroom door.
I turn off the little orange light on the Mr. Coffee maker as the upstairs goes dark leaving only the Christmas tree to guide my way back to my old favorite chair.
Oh look, I can see the floor under the tree again. For weeks it's had a condition where colorful boxes and bags would appear at it's base, blocking floor access. And by doing so, any way of watering the now fire hazard that's been in the house for three weeks.
Tomorrow,...I'll water it tomorrow, I think to myself as my butt is halfway to the chair beyond the point of I'll stand up and do it now before I forget. But it's today! I see only three numbers on the digital display of some gadget around the TV. I was expecting four. I try to convince myself it's still Christmas Day. But, it's not.
Christmas is over. Done, complete, finished. That was a short two months, of everything and nothing but Christmas. I guess I'm glad it's over. Maybe I can breath again. That was a lot of work to get to this moment. All the 'they need, they want, they gotta have or it's not good enough', is done.
I exhale at the thought, blowing across the top of my coffee as I take the first sip. As I focus on the level of coffee in my mug I see a reflection of Christmas tree lights in the coffee. It's just me and the tree now. I don't know how I'm going to break it to him that he's now trash. The now highly decorated, illuminated but poorly irrigated, fire hazard will soon be striped of all it's illumination, man made bobbles and bangles. Soon to be tossed aside and then dumped in a yet unknown location. It's once proud eight foot splendor has started to become a needle dripping, unloved eyesore.
Pondering on which neighbors are away on holidays, and would enjoy an eight foot horizontal Fir on their front lawn upon their return, I'm visually drawn to a childhood memory. Back in the tree behind the 20,000 or more bright LED lights, hidden by plastic ornaments from China and Korea is my childhood Christmas memory. A glass ornament of a choir boy holding a hymn book, mouth open, eyes closed, singing Pop Goes the Weasel. Well, probably not, but as a kid it was fun to think that he was. He was with two other singers back then. The first hand painted boy band from Germany,
They originally had been my grandmothers which would make the last remaining member of the group about 100 yrs. old. Which would make him old enough to be in the Rolling Stones. Nothing says Christmas like a little glass figurine of Mick Jagger hanging in the tree.
As a kid I would lay under the Christmas tree and enjoy the colored lights, ornaments and the smell that the tree held. It smelt like the little cardboard tree dad had around the rear view mirror in the car.
Ornaments would sparkle under the colored lights and compete with tinsel to see who could outshine the other. Christmas carols would play on the big stereo HiFi. A source of pride for my Dad, who would brag that it was big enough to bury him in.
All these sights and sounds would combine with the heavenly smell of Mom's Christmas baking. All together, creating an outdoor cinnamon kind of aroma.
My problems back then were too few to worry, which is the luxury of the young. I had needs and wants that money could still buy. My whole life was ahead of me and it looked exciting and good. It was a time, that as a kid I could lay under a Christmas tree without someone dialing 911. Just lie there in peace and be hypnotized by the sights, sounds and smells of home comfort.
I take another sip of coffee and wish for more sugar.
My little singing old choirboy is looking straight at me through,...I was going to say lights and ornaments, but time, seems more correct. He looks across the time that's been my life. From my youth filled with happy Christmas memories with all the family there. To what my life's become 55 yrs. later.
My Dads gone now, but we didn't bury him in the HiFi. We wished we had of though. It would of been easier having six guys carrying him out in it, than trying to recycle its 7 ft. HIFI splendor. My Mom can still bake but infrequently is her main dish now. And me, I only lay under the tree to water it now. Which if not done in a speedy manner scares the wife.
I've married, twice, and am now happily into my 25th year with my second wife. We share three wonderful children and four even better grandkids. We've worked together to build a family we're proud of. I'm lucky to have lived long enough to where money can't buy me what I want anymore. And all my problems I thought were a problem are in my pine scented rear view mirror.
The furnace kicks in and reminds me to turn down the thermostat before I make it to bed. My coffee's cooled to where gulps replace sips. And my shoulders relax as I breath deep the satisfaction of another happy family Christmas.
Was all the work and effort worth it? Yes it was. All through my life, every Christmas has been with family. Thank you Mom and Dad. You made memories that will last more than your life times. It's was your solid foundation that you set for me, so that I can build on for my family. The one my wife and I are forming, that's being enjoyed and remembered by my kids, and their kids. We're building on solid rock, sitting strong in these stormy times.
Ahhhh I breath out and reach over to squeeze the wife's hand...Oh ya.
All is right in my world little choirboy. Even though outside my door trouble, hate, disease, and wars abound. I'm at peace. Bethlehem peace. An inner peace, found only because of that night so long ago. A comforting peace, that spans throughout all time. An all encompassing peace to surround the grandchildren. One to shelter and comfort their fears of wars, disease and home grown terror. A peace that's anchored by strong roots in my humble home. Now reminded by an old, still precious, almost hidden symbol. One that was once celebrated at the forefront of our family Christmas tree. So much like the real meaning of Christmas for most of us. It's still there. Once you get past all the glitz and noise of the season. Down deep behind the lights, ornaments, presents and other distractions. So precious, still valued,...that quiet kind of Christmas peace.
Dedicated to my big Brother Ian who was with us every Christmas and for many more to come.