Christmas. This year sure is different. It's been a tough one. Many people and families have suffered this year.
Life changes. And if you can't change with it... if you always want things to be the same... you will not survive very happily in this life. I have a family member who has not faired well with the changes that come with aging and losing loved ones. He refuses to see anything worthwhile in today's events or his experience with life. He doesn't see how important his life is and the input he could have in others' lives. I understand in many ways, but it's still very sad.
My earliest experiences and memories of Christmas are full of cozy warm family times. For so, so many years I woke in the night to see my stocking hung by the fireplace. I was allowed to get up and open it so I would usually bring it back to my warm bed and look at each item with delight! Often the chocolate was a little melted because, well... the fireplace! Christmas morning my brother and I opened our gifts and then waited for my grandparents and uncle, another aunt and a cousin to arrive. I can still see them trudging up the usually snow-covered driveway with boxes and bags of items... presents and food... We would stack the gifts according to the recipient and take turns opening each gift. Then of course would be a breakfast or nice meal.... and lots of cookies and baked goods!
I do remember my mom having to pick out gifts and put them on layaway every year. The store would hold all her items until she could pay in full. That was usually a week or so, maybe even a few days, before Christmas. She would pay a little at a time making payments for a couple months before Christmas. She didn't have the money to buy everything all at once. I'm sure my parents lived from paycheck to paycheck. She also opened up a Christmas Club account at the bank every year that she contributed to all throughout the year so she would have money saved for Christmas presents. I remember this very clearly. Mom was always a planner and budgeter and it wasn't until much later in life.... after I was out of the house and on my own... that my parents had more spending money to enjoy traveling and doing more things. Mom was a stay-at-home mother until we were much older and then she went back to school. She earned her college degree, then her Master's degree and became a teacher and children's librarian/media specialist. I think she earned a pretty decent paycheck then.
But ... not when we were little. Dad's conservative income is what we lived on and I sure didn't feel deprived. We lived on a country dirt road and there was always something fun to do. Christmas included lots of cookie baking, mom doing some kind of artistic project like making tissue paper and foil snowflakes for the big picture window in the living room... putting up the Christmas tree and lights outside. For me as a kid I found it wonderful... but I'm sure the memories looking back now are magnified and even happier than they were at the time... because it was a time I felt secure and safe and surrounded by family... and lots of love.
As life changes some of the people who made the happy memories we look back on are no longer here. They are only in our hearts. Mom has been gone for almost eight years. My grandparents have been gone much longer. We depended on them to bring the Christmas spirit each year. To contribute to our happy experience and joy. I hear people my age talk about how Christmas isn't the same anymore and they are sad because those people who made it "the good ol' days" are missing. I feel that way sometimes as well, but I also know that my grandparents and parents must have felt that way too, even when they were making the wonderful memories for me.... so it's my responsibility now... my time.... to help create loving and sweet memories for the younger ones in my family... and it will be theirs to do one day as well.
We must never stop living. Never stop being involved in making others feel and see the joy that loving experiences can bring. Never stop contributing.