These past weeks from September 15th until today have been filled with a multitude of life lessons, which I will surely write about, but not today.
Today is about Christmases – My Christmases, past and present. I feel the need to share these memories, observations and thoughts on why this Virginia still believes in Christmas and yes in Santa Clause. First let me state that I dislike the overt commercialism; starting the “Season” in July (I watch QVC), Black Friday’s, stores opening on Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday’s and the endless emails on how it is my last chance to get free shipping and 50% off anything and everything!
My first Christmas memory takes place around 1961 in the living room of the farm house, I remember a little tin oven and dolls, my baby brother in some sort of walker contraption taking balls off the tree. My early Christmases were lovely. My mother would bake and bake and bake – Family visited on the eve, there would be It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas on the TV (my father and I would sing We’ll follow the old man (Last act from White Christmas). When we were very young my brother and I wanted everyone to go home so we could go to bed and wait for Santa. Christmas morning started with me waking up my brother then our parents. We weren’t rich in wealth but it didn’t matter there was always one big present each, a game to share, coloring books, crayons, chocolate coin candy and love.
Our parents loved the holidays my mother at eighty-one still retains a child like joy when picking out and putting up her Christmas tree. My mother’s nativity scene was her mother’s and the figurers are large averaging 12 inches. The nativity stable was built by my father, and the chips on the figurines are from yours truly who sat in the middle of the scene at age 4. One day it will be mine and I will remember my mother like she remembers hers with every piece that’s put into place. My father has been gone for twenty-five Christmases but I still remember how he loved being with his family and how he and his brother Danny got us to all go caroling with a portable record player in tow. My father taught me how to crack walnuts without using a nut cracker. Mind you it wasn’t always perfect, mom liked things just so and dad liked to party but it all turned out good in the end.
Going to Catholic school there would always be a bazar, where we could buy presents for our parents my mother still has a Madonna and Child figurine I gave her. The nuns would hand out these small caroling books and we’d sing in class how I’d love those songs (still do). I’d go home and mom would have Mario Lanza’s record on the stereo (her favorite). Mom would also play Bing Crosby and sing along with the records, I remember her singing in the car, we’d all sing!
When I was in high school there were Christmas concerts with the band – To this day I love instrumental Christmas music because of those days. I remember caroling with friends and enjoying Italian Christmas cookies from my friend Mary’s dad ( my favorite) Sal has passed but my mother has his recipe and I remember him every year.
I remember Christmas time at Newport Hospital School of Nursing our Christmas Bazar (I still have ornaments we made to sell). One Christmas my friend Michelle gathered a few of us together to buy and decorate a tree for an elderly gentleman who had no family. It was this Christmas that I learned what real giving was all about and is why my business adopts a family or two every year.
After leaving school to embark on a nursing career there were work parties and ornament exchanges. Karate Christmas parties and finding the right gift for our instructor.
Yes, those were wonderful Christmases! Time changes everything – My father has passed as well as my grandparents, most aunts, uncles and now my cousins. There are very few people at my mom’s at Christmas and none on Christmas Eve – My brother and his family are across the country. I live alone, so my tree searching, decorating, singing ect… is also done on my own. Believe me, I’m not writing this because I feel sorry for myself. I’m very grateful for those past Christmases just as I’m grateful for the present.
When I decorate, I get to recall all of those wonderful times. I have two Santa music globes one was given to me by students about twenty years ago another was my aunt Lucy’s originally a gift from me. I have a tiny bear tea set given to me by the first student I ever taught. There is an ornament from my best friend in high school, my best friend in nursing school, many from former students, one that resembles a Springer Spaniel of mine named Eliza, there are ornaments from the Black Forest in Germany I bought while vacationing there, an ornament shaped like a key with 1993(the year I bought my condo) that was given to me by a co-worker. I have snowmen salt and pepper shakers that were given to me by one of my first black belts who’s life ended too soon.
Christmas becomes a time warp for me. All the spirits of Christmases long ago are with me, with every song I hear, every card I read, ( I save Christmas cards and have many from family members who’ve passed). The lights and the tree give me a sense of calm, but it is my small Nativity with only Jesus, Mary and Joseph that ground me to the reason of the season. I’m not very religious or devout but I do believe in the reason of the season.
Which is why I will continue to celebrate and honor those who’ve passed by keeping their memories alive, my cousin Rita passed this year from MS. Her mother,(my aunt Virginia) made fudge and gave it away every year – When my aunt stopped Rita took over the tradition. After Rita entered a nursing home, I started making the fudge. I know she will be with me this year when I make it.
This Christmas will be one to remember, because they all are, and all will be remembered. I will enjoy every precious moment with my mom and John. I will live vicariously the youthful Christmas of my karate grandchildren. I will watch White Christmas and sing We’ll follow the old man. I will cherish every Christmas card I receive, and send love and good wishes to the ones I write. I will enjoy baking cookies more than ever because my mixer was an early Christmas gift from my mother. I will drop a $1.00 in all the Salvation Army kettles I come across. I do pray for peace on earth good will toward men and yes Virginia still believes in Santa Clause.
Merry Christmas Everyone