So do you have your tree up? Have you begun to prepare for Hanukkah? Presents bought? Wrapped? No? Well that makes most of us. In fact, if you are members of my family you are wrapping gifts right up to Christmas afternoon.
I remember in 1986 we had an unexpected guest who came for a visit on Christmas Eve and we had no gift for them. My ex (Firefighter Bob) and I were diving through dresser drawers, closets and cabinets trying to find any small gift. Aftershave, a candle, or a nice pen set -anything- so we could give them a gift. After that hair raising experience I have always made a point to get a dozen small gifts wrapped and ready to go just in case of a last minute need.
As I traveled so much as a younger woman I purchased our gifts early- so IF I was able to come home for Christmas my shopping was done and I could just sit and enjoy. Years later, my daughter, (who was raising her two boys in the house where she was born) was cleaning out a closet and found a stash of presents I hid there when she was about seven.
Since Bob was a firefighter, it meant that sometimes he had to work holidays. So for the shifts he worked on Christmas- Santa would come to our house on the 23rd, giving Melodie her Christmas on the 24th. Kids throughout the neighborhood wanted their dads to be a fireman.
Fireman Bob liked me to make a large buffet spread on Christmas Eve. Breads, cheese, meats, raw veggies, dips, cakes, cookies, fudge, rice pudding, eggnog, iced tea, candy and anything else I could think of. All day we would munch on the food as we prepared for Santa to arrive.
That night Melodie picked out a plate for Santa filling with snacks for the bearded gentleman to munch on. However, one year, we were so full from eating the buffet all day- we couldn’t put any sort of dent in that Santa plate. We couldn’t throw the food out, as Melodie would check. So thinking we were so smart, we put it back on the platters sort of disguising it. What we didn’t know was Melodie had marked some of the food.
The cheese had her fingernail print in it. The cake was dented. The carrots had some fork grooves in them. She told me she was testing to proof if there was a Santa. I had to think fast. We explained that since her last name was Sharp and it started with ‘S’ we were well into the delivery lineup for the night and Santa may have been full by the time he got to us.
We said, “He didn’t want to hurt our feelings, so he put the food back.”
She bought it for a few more years.
It’s interesting how we get our traditions when we form a new family. Melodie was born on December 7th. We would give her clothes for her birthday and toys and fun stuff on the 25th. Col. Charlie’s birthday is December 26th so Melodie gives him one sock on the 25th and the mate on the 26th.
Charlie and I don’t have children together so our celebration is a bit different. I still put up the tree and my village. He still strokes his beard trying to figure out how to pay for gifts and enjoys the ‘hunt’ for the perfect gift for those close to him.
For some the memory of Christmas past is all glitter and gold and parties, and dresses, and delightful food. There are some of us, however, who have darker memories of these holidays. I am one of those people who dread the longer winter nights alone with my memories of my childhood. I was raped over several Christmas’ and some fragrances brings back those memories. I have been blessed to have been married to two men who have been supportive and have found their own ways of helping me through these rough days.
I have been journaling for most of my adult life. Journaling helps me keep my feelings in a book and not in someone’s face. I have a history written in those books of shopping lists, plans, hiding places and gift ideas. There they are- all in a central place- my journal. I sketch out where I put the tree, the village, what food I took to which party, presents bought and received. The last is most important when re-gifting. NEVER re-gift the gift to the original giver. Big mistake… HUGE.
Journaling also reminds me how I have grown. When I face life’s experiences- no job, no money, moving, change, and stagnation- I can always go back to my journals and see how I battled the problem and overcame it.
Journaling helps me keep my eyes on the reason for the holiday. It reminds me that I am stronger than I was ten years ago. It shows how I have grown emotionally, spiritually, and physically. This year I have stopped dying my hair, allowing the gray to come through. I have been dying my hair since I was sixteen. Frankly I have no idea what my hair color should be. I also wanted to know if the gray is pretty enough to stand on its own. My journal shows my thoughts as I travel this road of self realization of my true coming of age.
I have written how my husbands have courted me. How they proposed. First dates, death of friends, leaving home, going to college, first days at work. I have noted when bosses ticked me off, encouraged me, dissed me, and gave me raises or bonuses. Friends that have reached out to me, turned away from me, trusted me, and love me.
The one thing I have throughout my time on the pages of diaries is my relationship with God. That I am loved by a God who came as a baby in a stable and was named Jesus. Who chose to live among us so that He could understand what it was like to live here on earth. When things have gone badly- I have a God who knows exactly what is happening and is right with me through it all.
So many of us have hit on bad times, uncertain times. I have had to step out and try to find a full time job to help our future be a bit more stable. But even with all the uncertainty, I am sure that there is someone in your neighborhood, your church, where you work, where you volunteer who needs to have some encouragement. Can we invite them to dinner? Take them to McDonalds? Ask them if they would like to go for a drive with us as we are going to Kroger or Wal-Mart. Can you pick up a gift card for them at Burger King or just take over a plate of cookies or cupcakes? I mean we're baking anyway. We are shopping anyway. We are making a large meal that another five people could feast on. Can we do something personal for those close to us.
So Christmas morning as we are ripping the $35.00 of wrapping paper off of our gifts- wondering why we hated getting socks when we were kids and would love to get some now that we are grown- why not take a few moments and have your family write about their favorite Christmas present or memory. Compile stories from their memories from the past year. Find a nice box to put them in, date the pages and put them away until next year. Keep adding to the collection every year. What a great treasure to have. Grandma, Grandpa’s stories in their own handwriting, to see your children and grandchildren’s stories grow and mature. See how you change and grow. Even if you are alone- you can start the tradition right now.
Remember this, as I used to say to my clients, if you DO get something you don’t want- you can always send it to me. Trisha Petty PO Box 206, Columbia, TN 38402!
Have a Merry Christmas!