Sunday, December 4, 2011
A Child of Christmas
As we drove through neighborhoods I have known since I was a young girl, memories returned of long summer days and crisp autumn nights. Childhood friends and bullies houses still stood, unaware of the emotions each pulled from my heart as we cruised by.
I had a sense of time travel--zipping backward to the years my memory was most active and fertile. Sights, sounds, smells, and feelings strongly wrapped among places and buildings and homes. On a few streets, Christmas decorations from ages ago still blink along-side modern LEDs and inflatable snow globes. The older citizens own the former and the younger citizens own the latter, yet they celebrate with equal enthusiasm.
As someone who normally eschews gaudy, I can't get enough of it this time of year. I don't really care anymore what color, style or design the lights create, I'm just childishly happy to see them.
I remember the last time we took my ninety-something-years-old grandmother out with us to see the lights. It was bitter cold. She was frail. Very fragile. I worried she would not be able to safely come along. But she wanted to go!
We bundled her up and carefully pulled the van as close to her apartment complex sidewalk as possible, venturing onto the concrete even, to shorten her walk on the snowy path.
I can still see her huddled low in the front seat--her shoulders hunched, body leaning precariously forward, ears encased in her favorite scarf. As we drove slowly through the tunnel of changing lights at our town's fairground Christmas display, her eyes shone as the colorful reflections lit her cheeks. She was plagued with cataracts, but she could still see the lights and she could still feel the emotions of Christmas.
She was always the first one to want to check her stocking on Christmas morning. The delight of opening gifts and eating a special Christmas dinner never waned with her. The story of the Christ child's birth remained magical and breath-taking.
She left her lonely apartment each Christmas eve to sleep at our house so she could wake Christmas morning with us as we ran to the family room to see what Santa brought. And she loved the thrill of games and family and noise. She gave her grandchildren a dollar in a card and repeated the same thing each year: "I couldn't give you much, but here's a little something."
One year, she gave me a favorite old dress she used to wear in the thirties. Another year, her apron, which I still wear as I prepare meals. That apron brings her alongside me as I cook and bake and care for my family, just as she did all those long years ago when she was young.
I am a child of Christmas like my grandmother, too.
After we took my mom back home, my hubby went in the attic space to bring down some Christmas lights for her, and while they worked, I browsed the garage. I stumbled across my dad's bowling ball bag. Immediatley, all the days and nights of seeing him and my mom bowl flooded my mind: the smokey alleys, the loud chatter, the fried food and the gaudy Christmas lights among the tinsel swags and garlands.
I unzipped the bag. There was Dad's dark blue ball, neatly resting on its little stand, just as though he had used it yesterday. I put my fingers in the holes drilled especially to fit his hand. I spun it, a tiny bit, and there was his name: Ray.
Something turned over in my heart. "Can I have this?"
Mom glanced my way. "Dad's old bowling ball?"
I told her how I remembered the day they got their professional bowling balls: names on and everything. The ball bag under the tree...a Christmas gift.
I plan to spiff up the bag and put a big red bow on it and place it ever so carefully under our tree. And I pray I will always be a child of Christmas, even when I'm ninety-three.