I told my mother a few days ago I have enough Christmas spirit for all of us. Her Christmas spirit is stuck in neutral right now. (Story continues after photo.)
I love Christmas, and it’s a big affair every year in our family. This year is different. There won’t be our customary big gatherings. I’ve curtailed shopping as much as possible, doing a lot online and the rest at times I think the store might not be so busy. The COVID sequester, not only for those who are sick but in these unusual times for those who are healthy, has been hard on my elderly mother. Determined to stay positive about all this, I had a bit of cheer the other day as I went through old decorations and Christmas cards. That cheer came from an unexpected place—Dr. Seuss. And now a confession.
I have never enjoyed Dr. Seuss. My children liked his works, so I read to them from his books. I don’t know why his work never touched my heart as so many others have. As I gazed at pieces of Christmases past, I realized hope can come in the strangest manifestations. I thought of the Grinch and I thought to myself, even the Grinch came around after others showed him kindness despite his mean ways.
This was a good year for my family in so many ways. It was a bad one in other ways. My daughters always laugh at my glass-half-full attitude, but that attitude has brought me through many a difficult time. As I grow older, and hopefully a little wiser, I’ve come to cherish the simple moments.
One smile from a grandchild can light up your day like nothing else. I told my brother when I have the children here, I forget every worry I have. At Christmas, their magic multiplies. If we light up the Christmas tree, my grandson’s joy wraps around all our hearts. If we tell a funny family story, my granddaughter’s eyes carry enough light to spread around the world.
We’ve had many funny stories over Christmases past. There was the year before we married when my dog, a Labrador who was the Houdini of canines, escaped the back porch. He did that by slashing a hole in the screen door. Animal Control picked him up, and when we headed to the facility to pick him up, the fine was a whopping $150. That was a lot of money back then. Thing is, it was my Christmas money for presents.
As the Animal Control officer brought my dog to us, I told the officer I was sorry he got out and put them to that trouble. The man laughed, and he said, “That dog wanted on the truck. He followed us down the street, barking at us. We had to pick him up.”
That same dog had never in his life chased or barked at a car.
Pretty much cash strapped, I asked everyone I knew for coffee cans they didn’t want. I washed and decorated them and baked bread in each of those cans to give as Christmas gifts.
There was also the year my husband and I, after our children were born, were up in the wee hours of Christmas morning in an attempt to get the elevator on the Barbie condo to work. I’d elaborate on that here, but the language we used prohibits that. I call that phenomenon ‘whisper cursing.’ Both of us decided toymakers create such works just to torment parents.
Another year I laid away two Baby Wanna Walk dolls for our girls. I did this early in October because that doll who could stand on her on, hold her hands in the air, and walk, was a popular item that year. We’d come from my brother’s Christmas dinner, and we got the girls to bed. Then we headed to the closet to break out all the Santa gifts. I thought it would be neat to stand the dolls in front of their boxes instead of wrapping them. We unwrapped one and said, “How cute.” We unwrapped the second one and her head immediately slumped to one side. Her neck was broken.
Refusing to let myself freak out over a defective doll, I told my husband we’d give that one to Rebecca because she was younger, and it would be easier to persuade her things would work out. My husband got pliers and wire and did enough surgery on that doll to get her head to stay upright, although it was at a very unusual angle. She could not do her walking properly. We got to bed that night shortly before daylight.
Rebecca was a toddler, so we told her her dolly would have to go the hospital because she got hurt on Santa’s sleigh. Or something like that. The day after Christmas I waited in a very long line to get a new Baby Wanna Walk. I took her home and told Rebecca the docs had fixed her.
Rebecca, always a deep thinker from the age of two, had the same response any time Santa was mentioned. “Don’t let him come in my room!”
Today she tells me it made sense, her fear of Santa. “A fat guy with a beard, sliding down the chimney, and walking around while we’re sleeping? No wonder I was afraid.” I’m paraphrasing her words, but that was the gist of it.
As Christmas comes, my prayer is for healing and goodness to shine. In every human there is at least one spark of goodness. When my small immediate family gathers, we’ll share stories of Christmases past, and I will again confirm what I learned long ago.
Perfect Christmases rarely happen. When things go wrong, those crises will be the stuff of family tales for generations to come. It’s up to us to make the best of this challenging time, and maybe even the Grinches among us will come around to let light into their hearts. Sometimes Christmas disasters present us with the best memories of all.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
(Kay B. Day/Dec. 11, 2020)