A Dickens Of A Life…
This time of year always makes me nostalgic. There’s something about winter that tugs at my heart. I like the cold, crisp air and the fluffy white snow that envelops the ground. I get giddy at the sight of icicles hanging from trees and porches.
I start planning for Christmas months and months in advance. I am always on the search for the perfect gifts for my family. And I look for meaningful causes to send a little extra cheer during this holiday season.
Lately I have been thinking of the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, ala Charles Dickens. 2022 has been a hard one for our family, with the death of our Moms. It’s always hard to celebrate holidays and birthdays without our loved ones, but this year… well, this 1st Christmas without our Moms is going to be very hard.
My memories of Christmases Past include my Mom and Dad always managing to give us the gifts of our dreams, as chosen from the Sears Christmas Wish Book. My brothers and I would get so excited when that catalog appeared in our mailbox. We would dogear the pages and circle toys and write our letters to Santa. My Mom would bake her delicious homemade sugar cookies, which covered our dining room table. She spent hours making icing in all colors and intricately turning the cookies into cheerful snowmen, angels, stain glass Churches, and wreaths. When I was very young, we had one of those tinsel trees with the color wheels and our house was very, very groovy.
Church was an integral part of my life growing up, the family house is right across the road from the Church that I was married in. Christmas memories include caroling to the elderly and sick, Christmas plays where I was usually an Angel with a halo that was always lopsided because I was jumping around behind the curtain and the highlight of my acting career, the coveted role of Mary when I was a teenager. The Sunday before Christmas the entire congregation was presented with an orange and a box of candy that included chocolate drops, which came from the candy counter of G.C. Murphy’s. If we had snow over the holiday, we would take out our new sleds and zoom down the hill behind our house.
We started going to my Aunt and Uncle’s in Ohio on Christmas Day when I was a tween, so we began opening our family gifts on Christmas Eve, which we continued to do even after we decided to stay home a few years later.
My husband and I will be celebrating 40 years of marriage just two weeks before Christmas. We were married in a snowstorm in the tiny country Church built by my great-grandfather. We also got married on my Mom’s 45th birthday. We were young and poor, but in love. I had no clue what I was doing – I didn’t even know how to run a can opener and 40 years later, well, my cooking skills are still horrible.
My 1st Christmas with my husband’s side of the family, was like walking into a room that was filled with presents. My mother-in-law, wrapped EVERYTHING! She would take a pair of socks and wrap each sock separately. If she got a free gift for ordering shipping boxes (or other items), she wrapped that up and presented it to someone. (I must confess to doing that now, as well!)
She and my father-in-law wrote handwritten gift tags with clues as to what was in the package, and you had to try and guess what was inside. It was also a firm rule that presents were not opened until Christmas Day.
Years flew by and Steve and I had a daughter and a son of our own. We spent the holiday season by attending lots and lots of school programs, our annual visit to Kraynak’s Christmas Land, and driving miles and miles to see holiday light displays. Santa would appear on Christmas Eve before the kids went to bed and although we could not see him, we would hear the bells on his reindeer as they circled our house. Once the kids were nestled all snug in their beds, the real magic began as presents were placed under the tree and Santa sampled the cookie treats and Coca Cola provided for him.
Christmas Present – oh my! It’s incredible – four little grandkids bring all of the wonder and joy of the season back to life for us again! We have school programs to attend once more, and this year will bring them dancing in a special production of the Nutcracker Ballet at the dance studio that my mother-in-law owned and operated for almost 60 years. We still visit Christmas Land and drive miles and miles to look at the light displays. As usual, I wait until almost the last minute to wrap my presents. My daughter and son-in-law host an amazing feast on Christmas Eve. Although our Moms will not be here on Earth with us this year, they are very much in our hearts. And V will be joining our festivities and helping to make our spirits bright.
As for Christmas Future – no clue. 2022 has taught me that you never know what is around the bend and that life is truly short. Last year’s holiday season saw me standing in the frigid winter air on a dark night on January 2nd and realizing that my Mom was going to die (she died about 6 hours later). “Joy” was illuminated and beckoning to me. All I could think of at the time was , “No joy for me. All I can do at this point is to persevere.” I spied a “Joy” decoration the other day and I stuck it in my cart. I experienced my “tingly Mom is with me feeling” and in my head, I heard one of Mom’s favorite Gospel Hymns, “It is Joy unspeakable and full of Glory!” [by Barney E. Warren] I believe that it was my Mom nudging me and telling me, “Hey Pammy Sue, I know that you love me and miss me, but you’ve got to spread the joy and the hope and the wonder of life with others.” And that’s my goal for the future.
I’ve had one Dickens of a life, one that is full of joy and sorrow, and love – so, so, so, so much love. Quoting Barney E. Warren – and my Mom, “It is joy unspeakable and full of glory, full of glory, full of glory. It is joy unspeakable and full of glory. Oh, the half has never yet been told.”