Simply Having…

xmas-lights-01-1212-deThere are things I love about the Christmas season. The sense of hope and excitement, the renewed emphasis on doing things for others, the traditional activities and events.

The decorations and lights – I really love Christmas lights.

My first memories of Christmas are of the sharp pine scent from the tree, my father and grandfather muscling it in through the front door while my mother and grandmother scurried behind them sweeping fallen needles off the dark wood floor. I hovered in the doorway on the other side of the room, watching from afar as they wrestled it into place in the red metal stand. Once they finally secured it in place – an operation that usually resulted in much grunting and groaning and half-muttered expletives – the fun part could begin.


Lights, strands and strands of big, bulbous lights in all the primary colors. Plus bubble lights, thin colored cylinders containing effervescent liquid that magically burbled away. Tinsel – skinny, silvalicious strands draped all over the branches. The ornaments came last, blue, gold, red, green, silver balls of thinnest glass.

When it was all done, my mother tucked a red felt skirt around the bottom.

My father switched out all the lights, save for those on the tree.

Oh, the glory of that room bathed in the rainbow colored glow of the Christmas tree. It washed over me like the warmth of baptismal water. It filled my tiny spirit with excitement and wonder and peace.

That’s the feeling I keep looking for now, more than 50 years after those first early memories of Christmas times. That feeling of being enveloped in wonder, in love, of being cherished and nurtured.

When I was growing up, Christmas was easy to navigate. My maternal grandparents lived with us. Several of my aunts and uncles on my mother’s side were nearby. My paternal grandfather lived five miles away. My father’s siblings and all my cousins lived within hailing distance. We saw them all at some point on the Christmas Eve-Christmas Day continuum.

Now, everyone in my family is scattered hither and thither. My father, gravely ill with cancer and Parkinson’s disease, is in Florida. My mother, frail but still fighting, is here in Michigan. My only child, with his wife and child, are in Texas. My grandparents are, of course, long dead and buried, and most of my aunts and uncles with them.

No one wrestles a pine tree into the living room. We just pull one out of the box (pre-lit) and plug it in.

There is no juggling of schedules in order to make it to all the relatives houses before the end of  Christmas day.

Tonight, we had my mother here to our new home, and celebrated our tiny Christmas. I made dinner, and she sat at our dining room table which she says is the most beautiful dining room table she has ever seen. She picked at her food, as she is wont to do now. She opened her presents – new warm pajamas, candy and nuts, and the traditional calendar featuring pictures of the two little dogs we all love so dearly. She went home to her big house, where she will be alone for the next week.

Tomorrow, my husband and I will fly to Texas to visit our son, daughter-in-law and grandson for Christmas. We are blessed beyond measure to have this new child in our family, to have his parents together to raise him with love and security. We are in awe of him, and would be perfectly happy spending every day just watching him do what he does.

But tonight when I drove my mother home, I realized that I will never have my family all together at Christmas again. I wonder what it would have been like –  if my parents had not gotten divorced, if my son had not moved away, if we had all stayed in one place like people used to do. I imagine my grandson here in my living room playing with his toys, my son and daughter in law sprawled on the floor beside him and my parents tucked side by side on the sofa. The dogs would sleep quietly on the hearth (except for Molly, who snores something awful) while the fire gently blazed. Jim and I would pour a glass of wine and survey the scene.

I would turn off all the lights save for those on the huge pine tree we had wrestled into that empty corner by the staircase.

And I would be bathed in wonder and love.

Wishing you the peace and beauty of Christmas, the joy of family, and the hope of a bright tomorrow.


8 thoughts on “Simply Having…

  1. I had to smile – for us, it was lights, then ornaments, then tinsel. Always, the tinsel was the last.

    You’re really so lucky – you have family left. They’re the biggest gift of the season – cherish them well.

  2. What a beautiful blog post about Christmas and all the childhood memories. I remember how my mother used to decorate the Christmas tree “just so”. She was a perfectionist and every ornament and light had to be positioned to her liking. My mother was from Austria and in the European culture Christmas is a huge deal. I believe that we had the most beautiful Christmas tree in town. Somehow, now that our children are 17 and older Christmas is a bit different. We used to love to watch the kids open their presents on Christmas morning. Now we cherish the fact that we are alive and healthy and have one another.

    • These are the changes that follow us through life, bringing wishes that things could be the way they used to be. But alas, things move so quickly and it seems to take more time than we have to get used to the new. With the arrival of your grandson, new traditions are in the making, and will be cherished just as the old ones were. Wishing you peace and and happiness over the holidays and throughout the coming new year.

  3. Beautiful Becca, I can feel the longing and am familiar with how Christmas stirs that up, too. This year, it really hit me how it’s my turn to create that sense of wonder for my own children. I realized how blessed I am to be in this time in my life, and blessed to realize how this time is fleeting so I won’t take it for granted. But in the midst of all of it, I felt a wave of loneliness. A longing for things past, a longing for experiences that probably only existed in my dreams. But then I shook it off, in favor of the wonder that exists inside myself. I hope you have a wonderful time in Texas. Merry Christmas, friend.

  4. A friend stopped by last night and we talked in this vein.
    Even the good memories are tender in December. We decided that life requires us to be flexible. It is constantly changing. I do sometimes take pause when looking at my brother’s life. He still lives where he grew up and he maintains deep relationships with family and friends he’s known forever. He is surrounded with goodwill when trouble strikes. There’s such a sense of community in his life.

    Have a joyful holiday with your family. Make beautiful memories with Connor and return safely.

  5. Hi, B….it’s been ages…but what blogger doesn’t come along at Christmas, at least, to share greetings and best wishes? Yes, the Xmas lights! Yes to so many things you mention and recall. There are so many wonderful universal experiences. Here’s to traditions, great and small, that bring us together. Here’s to our creating more such traditions, knitting them together to create a huge joyful tapestry.

  6. This is such a beautiful, poignant, spot-on post and one with which I resonate in so many ways. Yes, the lights are it. They always were, they always will be. And yes, spread out. My parents both died long ago, but we always celebrated with the cousins. Now they are far away with families of their own and that doesn’t happen. I have my new family, but as the boys grow older, we find Kevin sharing time with three families and who knows what will happen with Greg? But when we are together, we ARE together and it is like yesterday. And we turn off the lights and turn up the tunes and we are all home.

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