For today's Friday Five over at RevGalBlogPals, Jan asks us to share five Christmas memories. I have been remembering many things, and I'd love to share all happy memories, but (let's face it) sometimes Christmas can be difficult. So my memories are a mix, just like this time of year often is. These are the first five memories that came to mind.
1. Our family lived in Los Angeles, CA and the relatives lived in a small Texas town. We sometimes travelled there for Christmas. Money was never abundant, so it wasn't often that this happened. It was always a very exciting time for us to make the trip, and the arrival at our grandfather's lovely red brick home was so exciting--especially if we actually got snow. It was a big, warm, loving family with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, and on Christmas Eve everyone gathered together at the big house in town. One year my cousin, Grady, and I went out to some woods somewhere or other and gathered a bunch of mistletoe. We had lots of fun plotting and giggling and putting it up in various doorways and interesting spots, but we thought we were being so smart and sneaky to hang a sprig of it on the ceiling above Papa's recliner. Of course, when our grandfather arrived home he acted very surprised and confused as to why everyone was kissing him. I, being about 8 or 9, really thought we had fooled him. My happiest Christmas memories are of various doings with the family in Texas.
2. My father, who had always been a very healthy and vibrant person, was in a coma from an aneurysm. It was Christmas time. My sister, Paulette, arrived from Indiana. I arrived from Wisconsin. Darlaine, our eldest sis, already lived in California, and it had been a long time since the three of us had been together. It was good, in a strange way, to be there together. It was a long, difficult week, first at a small hospital in Hemet and later at a large one in La Jolla. The hospital was decked out for the season (and La Jolla is a wealthy area so it was all beautiful). Christmas carols were playing, the rest of the family were elsewhere, and Paulette and I were mostly struggling to hold back tears. We left the ICU area and went for a walk around the hospital's main floor and lobby. On the walls were oil paintings of many wealthy benefactors of Scripp's Medical Center. We looked at each one and tried to imagine what it was like to be them. We got to giggling nearly hysterically, and Paulette made some very rude comments about the various people depicted on the walls. Such a silly thing, but a very vivid memory of finding something to laugh about, walking hand in hand at the hospital and waiting to hear if our dad was going to live or die. (He passed away on Dec. 20th.)
3. One Christmas when I was a child I was snooping for presents. I found a Betty Crocker bake set on my parents' closet shelf. Excited, because I'd been longing for one, I showed Paulette. She scoffed, saying, "That's just an empty box. Daddy has been gathering empty boxes to put stuff in to wrap. You can't tell by the box, silly." I was not convinced, so somehow she got me out of the closet and into the kitchen, and a few minutes later she showed up with the box, saying to our mother, "She thinks this is her present." She opened the lid, announcing, "See, nothing in there." Only thing was, she had emptied the entire box of its contents, little boxes of various mixes and tiny spoons, measuring cups and so on...but she had forgotten one thing. I can still see it, my sister standing there being a smarty and throwing off the lid and...oops! One red mixing bowl still in the box. Ha! She had already convinced me, but that mixing bowl had me wondering all the way up to Christmas.
4. Then there was the Christmas that my mom (a lovely person, but one with some serious spiritual/emotional/mental issues that often made our family life difficult if not outright bizarre) spent the entire season secluded in her room. I decorated the tree, wrapped the presents, decorated the house as best I could....not a happy time. She did come out for a short while to open presents. My husband-to-be (though I did not know it yet) was there. My mother, poor thing, was so anxious to return to her seclusion that she all but flung the presents at us in her hurry. Ken was trying hard to pretend not to notice that something was very strange. I was trying not to cry. My dad was seething with barely-contained frustration and fury. The evening ended with Ken leaving early, and me listening to an all-too familiar argument from my parents' room. I covered my head with my pillow and cried, knowing life as I knew it was disintegrating and wondering where God was. I was about to enter a pretty confused period of life when I wondered if anything I believed was true. Not a happy memory, but I can say that through it all I know (now) that God was at work. God's faithfulness transcends the frailty of humanity. I am very grateful for that!
5. The first year with Trinity was such fun...a laughing little baby who was entranced with the lights. And last year with little Trinity was so enjoyable. She was not quite three, and she had so much fun that it would have been impossible not to laugh and enjoy the day (not that it wasn't quite nice to be with each other!). She welcomed us at her front door with a flourish (she is quite dramatic) and escorted us to the tree. Having a little kid around, once again, at Christmas was so delightful. This year she is very excited to be in her first Christmas program ever! Praise God for children!