Monday, December 23, 2013

The Christmas Circle - a True Story

This is a story I wrote for a newspaper request a few years ago. They asked people to send in a story about a memorable Christmas, happy or sad, and they would print the best few received. Mine was printed. There was no prizes involved but writing the story was healing. Hope you enjoy it too...and perhaps give you pause to think.

  The Christmas Circle

 I have very few distinct memories of childhood Christmas’s. They are pretty much meshed together. It was always fun and chaotic starting with the annual visit Christmas Eve to my Grandparent’s house where my father’s seven siblings and their families joined in the fun…and I remember being upset when that tradition ended when it got to be too much for my grandparents. Every Christmas we received new pajamas from Great Aunt Violet – new ones, from the store, not hand-me-downs. This was a very big deal when you are the youngest girl in a large family. There was always the special once-a-year baking – like my Mom’s homemade chocolates filled with everyone’s favorite filling. Mine was maraschino cherries; and her fruit cake that she made weeks before Christmas so it could age properly. When people make jokes about fruit cake I just smile because they sure aren’t talking about moms.

 I do remember as the youngest child for many years, and very small for my age, being upset at being delegated to decorating the bottom of the Christmas tree. I wanted to decorate the top like everyone else and every year, when I thought no one was looking, I’d climb on a chair and try to reach the very top of the tree. Usually one of my older siblings or my father would catch me and yank me down in time….but sometimes the tree lost! I shudder at how many ornaments I broke as a child. I remember a few gifts and our Christmas stockings with a large juicy orange in the toe. But distinct memories are rare. I think mainly because my parents didn’t take pictures so I have nothing to jog my memory. But I’ll never forget Christmas, 1971.

My family is large.  I have six biological siblings plus one foster brother that came when he was nine and never left. So, although never formally adopted, he is a brother in our eyes. Then there were the other kids from the Children’s Aid that came and went plus teenagers who couldn’t, for a variety of reasons, live at home and stayed with us and sometimes other parents who were having a rougher time then us would ask my parents to take their kids for awhile. They turned down no one. My parents owned a small farm with some cash crops and a few beef cattle and I now wonder how in the world they ever cared for some many children, let alone give us a nice Christmas every year. We didn’t have summer vacations or new cars but we had all the basics and really lacked for nothing we didn’t need. Looking back I guess we were quite poor, but we just didn’t realize it. They both opened their home and hearts to who ever needed help. They loved us all. Everyone who visited our home instantly felt wanted, safe and loved. Feelings everyone needs, especially those that came to us with wounded spirits.

People liked and respected my father. His word and a handshake was all that was needed to seal a deal; but everyone loved my mother.

The loving part was easy for Mom and she loved nothing better then having all us together for a family meal, especially at Christmas time. Thru the years we did like most kids, grew up and got married and started our own families. When I had my first child in 1971, I made certain that I took my camera to the family Christmas dinner.  I wanted pictures of my daughter’s first Christmas with her grandparents. I didn’t know at the time it would be the last Christmas with my mother. How I treasure that one picture. Mom, the picture of health in December, had a minor stroke a couple months later and my father rushed her to the hospital. Although the stroke was minor they noticed her left breast was turned in and asked about it. She told them she had mentioned it to her family doctor and he didn’t even examine her. He simply said, “You’ve had seven children Edith. What do you expect?” So, she didn’t worry about it….and she should have. Surgery followed quickly but it was too late. The cancer had spread and we lost her in October of that same year. She was only 55 years old.

Dad decided that we still had to have our traditional family Christmas dinner, at the family farm, same as always. Mom would want that he said. So, came we did. The kids opened their presents and played with new toys and games. The adults started several card games and visited with each other. We had the big turkey dinner with all the extras. Everyone smiled and joked. But, every once in awhile two siblings eyes would meet and we knew… it was a farce.  It was not the same without mom.  No one said a word but we all knew this would be our last family Christmas at “home”.  The next year my oldest sister asked dad if wanted to come there for Christmas dinner and he readily agreed. He must have known too.

After mom died I remember thinking, the circle was broken. The glue that held our family together was gone. It would never be the same. Christmas would never be the same. But time, and memories, eased the pain and we all went moved forward thru life and started new Christmas traditions with our own children and I learned to love Christmas again. Do I still miss my mother at Christmas? Yes - at Christmas and every day. Dad too actually. He died in his sleep from an aneurism just three years after mom died. With my three daughters and us living in four different cities, all six of them working, in-laws to consider;, five grandchildren, including one in university,  numerous large dogs and cats and all the travelling involved, getting together at Christmas is sometimes a logistic nightmare. But so far we manage to get together close, if not on, Christmas each year. Why? Because I remember Christmas 1971. You would think, after reading this story, that I would remember the Christmas without my mother, but no; I remember Christmas 1971. Why? Because I learned then; you never know when it’s going to be “the last”.

May your Christmas be blessed with good health and filled with wonderful memories. Be kind to each other and even to strangers. Remember, the smile and kind words you may say to a stranger could be the only ones they receive all day.

Blessings for a wonderful Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year.



1 comment:

Lindsay Weirich said...

What a special memory, thanks for sharing it with us. We lost my sister in law last Christmas and she was the one who hosted all the gatherings for my husbands side of the family, it was really hard for them this year, I am kinda glad that we had such a different Christmas (pizza and power outage at our house) this year, new traditions. Merry late Christmas Violet. And yes, after you gave me that tip I glued that glue gun stand to a block of wood, it is awesome!

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