What is your Christmas dream? Every year I start spinning holiday fantasies long before Thanksgiving. I find myself rummaging around in early Christmas memories and building a chain that links to the present.
Choosing each thing that makes a good link is not easy. There are some that are reminders of family discord and discontent rather than the warmth and comfort expected from the season. But those things have a place in the chain. In fact, some of those things may make the chain stronger. They remind us that we suffer from the condition we rarely appreciate -- we are human. If we believe that this season marks the astonishing event of divine love made manifest in a human baby, we should remember to celebrate that about ourselves, too. This season always reminds me that every new child born into this world brings redemption. The tiny baby nestled on a wisp of straw in the cardboard manger is, to me, every baby.
The next link in the chain this year is a wooden pair of stilts my father made for me when I was ten. Already taller than any other kid in my class, my height often made me feel awkward. But when these stilts made me even taller, I felt a balance and confidence that lifted my spirit as well. I like to think that this gift from my dad was an affirmation and an encouragement. There was no "too tall!" as far as he was concerned. Those stilts said to me "Be as tall as you can! It's good, it's fun!"
In the 1950's, when my mother was in a manic phase and my dad depressed (they were usually opposite sides of their respective emotional roller-coasters), dad announced that we would not spend five dollars on a tree. That was too extravagant, we could NOT afford it. My mother bought it anyway, and my dad was grumpy about it the whole season. But there it was, and there it stayed until each piece of tinsel was removed and saved for the next year. Not particularly a happy memory, but an enduring one. Another link in my chain.
The Sears Catalog played a part every year. Once my mother allowed me to purchase gifts for relatives on the east coast as long as I only spent one dollar on each. I had never met these distant relatives, but I enjoyed choosing every single present and wrapping them before they were put in the mail. I particularly remember a sewing kit tucked into a silvered walnut-shaped container--so compact, so useful, so beautiful!
"Taylor's Ham" (what I now know to be Canadian bacon) always came in the box those relatives sent our way. Salty, tangy, so very hammy--a must have every Christmas morning still.
The first year we were married we propped up the Christmas tree in a bucket with bricks, "securing" it with rope. We had no ornaments, so we made our own. We still have a tiny beer stein made of a cork and a pipe cleaner.
Making Christmas for our children gives me several more links; the wooden wheelbarrow and wooden dollhouse handcrafted by my husband, the art easel, the "wrong" cabbage patch doll (which actually became a treasure), the nuts and candy in the stockings hung by the chimney.
The Christmas dinner cooked when my son was three months old, and my sweet grandmother's chair was empty because she had succumbed to heart failure just a few weeks earlier, is a good link, a strong link, made up of many tears.
Our grandchildren around our tree on Christmas morning (this year will be the tenth), and all the chaos and noise three kids under the age of ten can bring, are the brightest links, the biggest and best links. That wonderful chaos and noise and glorious children circle our tree, like ribbons of light.
What adorns your tree, your life, this year? I wish for you the best and the brightest, the sweetest, the saltiest and most delicious of holidays. Let's all celebrate the gift of our humanity, and all that means right down to each and every tear and each and every bubble of joy.