This is my sixty-first Christmas season, and a rather nice one. I’ve been mindful and even frugal for the past several holidays, but this year I had an inexplicably overwhelming urge to do a little more. A lot of it is because my granddaughter Ellie is twenty-two months old and clearly comprehends that something nifty is going on. She’s a third-generation only child, so there’s none of that houseful of screaming kids hilarity that I recall from holiday visits to my mother’s sister’s family. But there’s a tall Christmas tree with many lights, an “E” (for Ellie) ornament, cookies, a large plastic lighted snowman on the porch, a piano that’s never off limits, and a basket full of Santa dolls. Last but not least there’s Grandpa Steve, one of those gifted souls who is able to be fully in the moment with little kids.
Like most people, I’ve had all sorts of Christmases, from fun ones to awful ones, and the ones that should have been fun but weren’t or they were weird around the edges. Probably more of the latter than any other kind. This year’s weirdness comes from the weather, which is warm and rainy. It was cold and snowy on Thanksgiving last month, but tomorrow the forecast is 62 with thunderstorms. In NW Indiana. It’s also weird because of the construction of a town home on the lot to our west, and now the dentist in the house on our south side has suddenly retired and sold his business. It’s a bit unsettled around us. As I write this, I feel the house shake from the giant backhoe digging the foundation just a few feet away from where I’m sitting. Will they be taking down the ugly chain link fence while they’re at it? Will my pear tree be okay? Will I still want to sit out in my garden when there’s a two-story wall on one side where there used to be an acre of green grass and a community garden?
There’s also relief this Christmas, at least for me. I got that third book written and published. The whole working and publishing online process has put me in touch with people I’ve never met in person, including half my Reader Team, nearly all of the Red Mug Club, and many others who have been so helpful and supportive. I wonder what kind of holidays they are having, and which holidays they celebrate–if any. I’ve seen their pictures online (most of them, anyway). Would I recognize them in person? And then there’s the ones signing up for the mailing list or liking my Page on Facebook. We’ve connected, somehow, as a result of my having spent a lot of time alone in this little office and in front of this computer.
I think of the ones I do know in person, their health challenges, their family issues, their losses. And think of my own losses, as well, which in sixty years has already piled up, from friends who have passed away too soon, to family members both young and old, and in remembering them I go back and further back until I’m there, in my grandparents’ house with the too-tall but deeply fragrant tree covered in bubble lights, glass ornaments, and tinsel, carols on the record player, the place filled with noisy children and grownups, the oldest who were at least ten years younger than I am now–
And then it occurs to me that it doesn’t really feel like the garden next door has disappeared, despite the giant yellow backhoe maneuvering there now, nor have the houses I used to live in, or the friends and family I once had or still have but in different ways. My son the thirty-four-year-old father is still also the little kid on Christmas morning twenty-five years ago, whooping with excitement as he unwrapped a Nintendo game. And I am ten and learning to play Jingle Bells on the piano even as I sit there and play it in a “duet” with Ellie–and imagine her doing the same, someday. They are with me still, all those people then and all the people now, in whatever ways I’ve known or know them, a sum total of every sort of Christmas past, present, and to come.
Onwards and upwards, and hugs to all at once.