Last Sunday, got out my Christmas bins so I could start decorating our little apartment, knowing it would take me some time to accomplish the transformation. I’m so slow these days. Even the simplest of tasks zaps my get-up-and-go and my rest times are much longer than my energy spurts. A project that used to take a morning or an afternoon now seems to take forever.
This year, I decided to let go and buy a smaller tree. Smaller might be an understatement, it stands only 2-feet high. After spending about fifteen minutes fluffing the branches, I yelled to Tom to help me carry the tree into the living room. He laughed when he saw the size of the tree, said he wasn’t sure he was strong enough. When you’re old, you’ve got to find humor wherever you can.
After sorting through all of my ornaments, I found just enough small ones to fill the tiny tree. I was delighted to discover most of them had been a gift that brought back a lovely memory of the person who had given it to me. Memories of former Cincinnati Zoo volunteers, family, neighbors, and friends who are no longer with us crowded my mind making me smile, laugh, and tear up a bit. Seeing those cherished little ornaments on my tiny tree is a composite of my life. What a blessing!
We sit every night and admire our tiny tree. We love it and it just fits this season of our life perfectly.
On Wednesday, I agreed to MC the Norwood City Schools Alumni Association (NCSAA) Christmas Luncheon as a favor for a good friend. I don’t MC much of anything anymore because my voice, and my eyes, don’t like to cooperate, and I can’t stand very long. So I sat on a stool the whole time, didn’t do a great job, but no one seemed to care. God bless old friends.
My brief message was about having a perfect Christmas? Several people suggested I put the message on my blog, so here goes.
It’s getting close to Christmas and who doesn’t love Christmas – the holiday itself centers on the most wondrous story ever told. The story of Jesus’ birth has inspired stories of classic holiday miracles such as O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Traditional movies help us get into the Christmas spirit. Movies such as Rudolph, Frosty; It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, White Christmas and my favorite, the black & white version of Miracle on 34th Street.
Is a perfect Christmas the Better Homes & Gardens version? Does It look like the movie and magazine images of a 10-foot, beautifully adorned tree, garland down the banister, hundreds of twinkling lights transforming your home into a winter wonderland and the whole family dressed in their Christmas coordinating outfits singing carols around the piano?
For years I tried to create a beautiful image but found it usually looked more like a confused combination of shopping, buying, baking, partying, making lists, fussing at traffic, spending money, fighting crowds, and tolerating people who stole my parking spot at the mall.
Going to tell you a story of a lesson I learned about a perfect Christmas.
My mother was unable to shop for Christmas for many years because of illness, so I always did her shopping, wrapped her gifts and decorated her Christmas tree. In fact, I had been wrapping her gifts since I was about eight. As a little girl, I would sit at the dining room table wrapping gifts while my mother cleaned the kitchen after dinner. As she worked and I wrapped, she told me silly stories, we sang songs and laughed a lot. I felt so GROWN UP that she trusted me to wrap all of the Christmas gifts for the family.
Years passed, I grew up, got married, had two little girls of my own and I still loved to wrap her gifts. When she became ill, our tradition continued with daddy turning her brown rocking chair in the living room around so she could watch me wrap the gifts at the dining room table. We still laughed; she still told me silly stories.
In the early seventies, when my daughters’ were young, they would go with me to trim her tree. One Saturday, Daddy had brought the boxes filled with ornaments and decorations up from the basement of their little house on Ralston Avenue. Sherry and Stacy wanted to play for a little while before decorating the tree, so I ran out to get the last few items on Mommy’s shopping list.
When I returned and pulled up in front of the house, the living room window was full of twinkling lights. As I opened the door, the girls were jumping all over the place, so excited they couldn’t stand still. “Mommy, mommy, we decorated grandma’s tree. ALL BY OURSELVES! Isn’t it beautiful? Grandma thinks it’s the prettiest tree she’s ever had.” Sure enough, there was the tree all decorated.
Sherry had decorated one side and Stacy the other. Sherry, who was 6 years old and tall for her age, had evenly distributed her ornaments from top to bottom. Three-year-old Stacy’s ornaments were in little clumps that stopped about ¾ of the way up the tree because that was as far as her little arms could reach.
My mother refused to let anyone (including me) change anything, telling my girls she was sure it was the most beautiful tree in Norwood, maybe even in the whole world. Was it is the most beautiful tree ever? Well, probably not, but it was a tree that represented love. The love of a grandmother who knew the importance of allowing two little girls to do something that made them feel very special. I never forgot that day.
What I learned was Christmas isn’t about perfection. It’s about love, joy, the happiness of being with family. It’s about singing Christmas carols, laughing, hugging, and giving to those we love. It’s about going to church to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. It’s about telling the same stories every Christmas, eating too many cookies, and every family celebrating with their own unique traditions.
This year, my hope is during all of the hustle and bustle we all can find time to slow down, hit the pause button, reflect, and just enjoy the most wonderful time of every year – CHRISTMAS!
The alumni group then participated in a Christmas singalong led by my friend and former classmate, Judy White. She had been the director of the Norwood High School Silhouettes, the show choir that both my daughters loved being a part of, and the director of the Norwood Community Chorus group. Hearing her beautiful voice leading the group in beloved Christmas carols was a joy. Everyone left filled with a good dose of holiday spirit.
It was a lovely luncheon spent with old friends and former classmates. It was wonderful to see all of them and have time to catch up. What a terrific way to kick-off the Christmas season.
After finishing up my decorations today, I went down to get the mail. As I started back to my apartment, I stopped to chat with a new neighbor that had just moved in last week. “December is such a tough time to move. Are you getting settled in?”
Her reply, “I’m okay except for Christmas. I just don’t know what I’m going to do. Knew my 7-foot tree wouldn’t fit. My son left my ornaments and decorations at the front of the storage unit for easy access. But, I still have to get a tree and time is running out.”
After telling her I had downsized to a tiny 2-foot tree, I asked, “Hey, I’ve got a 5-foot skinny tree that could use a good home. Would you like to have it?” Her face lit up with a big smile. It’s all settled, her daughters are coming to get it tomorrow night.
As I continue to redefine my Christmas traditions, it is becoming easier to let go of the myths and expectations. Today, I am considering what others, especially my children and grandchildren, will remember or learn from me about creating a perfect Christmas.
Ending on a Positive Note: Christmas asks us to remember the hope embodied in the birth of Jesus. To remember the joy His coming brings. To find a fresh sense of wonder, a new awareness of the love that comes every year at Christmas time!