It has been a different year. I've said that before and I will continue to say it up until the end of this year. It would be wonderful if it was as simple as just turning the calendar page to start life anew and a fresh. But though we mark the end of one year with great celebration and hoopla, it doesn't mean that the New Year will be different from the old. I am finding out that for much of our lives, change is little, incremental steps.
I have had a problem getting Christmas-y for the last decade. Call it getting old, call it seeing commercialism run rampant, call it finding it increasingly hard to find just the "right gift for adult children", and call it a nagging sense that this isn't what Christmas is about. I have never celebrated Christmas as just the Birth of our Lord, but the Christmas story was as integral to my childhood as was Santa Claus. They were part and parcel of each other. Somewhere they lost each other and both seemed gone to me. I would give to charities and feel somewhat better, but writing a check out isn't the same as doing a kindness for someone, unexpected and seeing their face light up. I became disillusioned with having to pick the charity that would do the most good and then being flooded with "reminders" the rest of the year. I know many of these charities are now "big business" but it just soured me on what I was really grateful for.
My kids grew up and the saying is, "Christmas is for kids". That may seem true, but the deeper meaning of Christmas is its for all of us, born in the form of a tiny babe in Bethlehem, that held the universe in his tiny hand. When you think on that for a few moments you can't help but be awed at what this is. How can you think that Christmas is just some holiday that has grown and morphed over the centuries? It is the magic that is Christmas. But I lost that for a time. I retreated into thinking Christmas was so much better when I was a child or when I watched my children tear into Christmas. But I now find that tearing into Christmas isn't what its all about either. Call it maturity wisdom, but often now its the quiet reflection and remembering with a smile, Christmases past....
Its the bubble candles on my grandparent's Christmas tree. We never had them on our tree and how fascinating they were to watch bubble continuously. I almost bought a set when I saw them at Bronner's a few years ago. They were outrageously expensive, and I had a suspicion they wouldn't bring back that wondrous time any better than my memories would, so I passed them by. But I hope that Grandma and Grandpa are smiling up in heaven right now for all the joy they gave me in the years I spent Christmases with them.
There was my favorite Christmas, the year my brother, Kim and I got our new two wheel bikes. It seems that I had no idea I was getting them in my recollections today, and that my brother came into my room at 5 a.m. to tell me, Santa had left a two wheeler under the tree for each of us. What magic that feeling was. I wish I could just hug it up close to me and never let it go. I was a believer on that morning. I think if you asked my brother for his favorite Christmas, that would be it also. Magic doesn't strike often, and I have learned that Christmas magic is even more rare, but that surely was one time.
There were the Christmas presents we found and peeked at one Christmas. Yes, I knew I was getting a pair of new ice skates one year, and while I enjoyed the ice skates and still have them I believe, the magic of Christmas had dimmed a bit when I found those skates. I never had the urge to "peek" at Christmas gifts again. I watched my great nieces and nephew tear through wrappings this year, and wondered if my own children were that intent on getting to the prize, and then on to the next one after. I am sure they were. My grand babies are too young this year to even care more about the wrapping paper than the gift, but that will come with time.
Call me German, call me thrifty, but I take the most satisfaction out of gifts I have made. They may not turn out exactly as I planned, and there are quite often numerous mistakes and boo-boo's, but they are also made with much love and reflection and though the recipient will never know it, a time to remember all that went into the relationship that produced the gift. I have come to the age where an unexpected gift, someone made just for me is more precious than a thousand Christmas gifts bought, because it needed to be. As they used to say, "the gifts from the hearts" are always the best. The boys will not even remember the Cabbage Patch dolls, I made them from a kit one year. Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage those years, and they came out with a doll you could make. So, I made each of the boys one, sewing on them late at night when they were in bed. I finished them the day before Christmas Eve. I am pretty sure they only received a cursory look at while on to the next gift which was probably a "Transformer" or Lego of some kind. They were never played with that I remember and were finally put away in the "boys" boxes and probably should have been donated long ago, as I do not see either becoming sentimentally attached to a doll of their childhood, despite the fact, they were made by their mom and each stitch represented a time to remember her "boys"....
And so it is with many Christmas memories. Some are blurry edged Christmas lights of remembrance. Others are sharp pinpoints of brightness like the Christmas star. Some take pulling out the Christmas box and finding a long discarded homemade ornament in the bottom of the box, and remembering how it was made and why. Other times its a memory conjured up by someone else that brings it all crystal clear. Some Christmas memories are strictly mine. Some will be strictly my children's, (I hope), and as I look into the faces of my grandchildren, I hope many bright ones will be lasting Christmas memories for them.
Christmas wasn't bad or good this year. I don't know that I ever had a bad Christmas because there was always family around and good Christmas memories. Some were better than others, but most just are fused together with that happy blush of being together. Its been a different year, and maybe that's how I'll remember this Christmas some day. I do know one thing, that while Christmas seems to be the end of the year, the end of excess and overdoing culminating in one long week, it is rightly the beginning of our Lord's life here on earth. A renewal and a chance to celebrate the tiny life that changed the world forever....
Merry Christmas to all.