Over the past month I have been afforded a lot of time to sit and think. As this has been known to get me into trouble on many occasions, I put serious consideration into uplifting memories. My thoughts, this year more than any in recent memory, have been drawn to Christmases past, present, and future. It’s too early, is going through the minds of probably 90% of everyone reading this post, but in my defense, for both of my elder sisters, one in Utah and the other in Ontario, Christmas decorating began before Halloween!
I can remember my mother starting to decorate her house in September, but then again, she also listened to Christmas carols all year. The spirit of the holiday inhabited her soul always and I can say she seemed the happiest when she could drag her boxes of ornaments and artificial trees out and joyously hang her decorations. My father used to moan and complain about the “mess” but he was a kind-hearted man who had grown up in the depression, so extravagance of any kind bothered him. As much as he railed about being sent to the poorhouse, he loved the season just as much, if not more, than my mother.
My parents were not well off, and with seven children to feed and clothe, Christmas had to have been a financial burden on them, although as children, we were never given the impression that mom and dad struggled to provide, especially at this time of year. On Christmas morning, our stockings were full and we each received one, and sometimes two, special toys, along with the obligatory socks, pants, etc. Christmas dinner was a feast, and festive treats, usually hard candies and candy canes, were available to satisfy our sweet tooth.
Only once do I remember a less than joyous time in the lead up to the day. My father, in what to him was probably a wonderful idea to save money for Christmas that year and in years to come, purchased an artificial Christmas tree from Eaton’s, the department store where he worked. It was in the early to mid sixties, and as I recall, these were all the rage that year. Keep in mind that they looked nothing at all like what you find in stores today. In short, this thing was UGLY, as this picture will kind of illustrate, although it really looked a whole lot worse than even this picture shows.
It was tinsel, or as mom called it, shredded tinfoil on a pole. Dad set it up and stepped proudly back to let mom enjoy her new Christmas tree. I remember mother looking at it for a couple of minutes, trying to put on a brave face, but ultimately bursting into tears at the sheer hideous spectacle of it. My father, to his credit, waited until she disappeared into the bedroom, weeping all the way. The look of grief and shock on his face let us know he was upset that the gift he honestly thought would enhance her holiday had produced the exact opposite effect. To be honest, it was just about the ugliest festive tree any of us had ever laid our eyes upon, but we didn’t want to say anything for fear of making things worse.
Without a word, he disassembled the offending tree and put it back in the box it had come in, after which he placed it in the basement, where it stayed until we moved. I don’t ever remember seeing it leave the box after that, and nobody ever mentioned it again.
When he was finished putting it away and sweeping up the tinsel, which had begun falling off the branches like dandruff, he donned his coat and left the house, without saying anything to us about where he was going. We knew he was upset, but we also knew that he was not bound for a pub to drown his sorrows, as my father did not drink and was never one to run from his problems, especially if he was the cause. When he returned, he brought with him a huge, as I recall, but I was only about nine or ten at the time, real tree, which he set up in the living room. When that was done, he went to retrieve our mother, whose joy at his thoughtfulness lifted the spirits of everyone.
Christmas was always a special and joyous time of year, one that, as children, we looked forward to with great anticipation which started around the first of the month and only grew as the day approached. My parents went out of their way to show us their love and appreciation for each of us, something that I have attempted, in my only clumsy way as a father of four now grown children. To me, the day is still one that I look forward to with great anticipation as I try to decide on the best gifts for each of them and for my grandchildren as well.
I try, often unsuccessfully, to find the perfect gift for my wife, one which shows my love and is at the same time something she will be able to use and appreciate. I was in the past an abject failure at this because I approached it as a man would, with the idea that it should be something she needed. After years of failure, my daughters ganged up on me one Christmas and told me in no uncertain terms, DON’T BUY HER KITCHEN APPLIANCES! I now try to watch what she is interested in as we travel and go shopping together, something I try to avoid like the plague. I think I’ve gotten better at finding the right gifts for her, but without my youngest girl, Sarah, to give me her opinion, I was forced this year to rely on my own judgement. I’ll know Christmas morning if we’re headed for divorce(lol).
In closing, I want to wish an early but very Merry Christmas to each and everyone one of you. Let the spirit of this upcoming season lift your heart and put a smile on your face as you contemplate the joy of and the reason behind this special celebration.
Merry Christmas to All!