Written by our highly paid guest columnist Sherry White Jeffcoat
This year I found myself floundering to know what Christmas personally meant to me anymore..other than the religious and traditional meaning.
I have come from the magic and joy of being a little girl myself with the wonder of it all, to seeing the same feelings through my children, to now, understanding why Christmas could possibly be a time when some people get extremely depressed.
I used to wonder how anyone could possibly be depressed during Christmas. That was when my little world didn’t expand beyond my own four walls, and my own tinsel wrapped happy little world.
I get it now….we go through the paces now, especially us…the baby boomers. Most of us have lost our parents at this point in our lives. Our children are grown, many of us are grandparents, many of us aren’t for whatever reasons. In many ways we can still recapture the magic of Christmas through grand kids. We put on the Christmas music for them, we decorate and cook for them. They keep us going. The truth is if they didn’t, many of us would become ostriches. We would bury our heads in the sand (or red dirt around here) :-) and let Christmas slide by.
How could I ever be irritated by hearing Christmas music in the stores? How could I possibly be irritated by people wishing me Happy Holidays? Well on that one I still miss the freedom of being able to say Merry Christmas without worrying about being politically correct.
I am even irritated when all the old Christmas movie classics come on TV. I am a selfish, ungrateful person when I have these feelings. I know I should count my many blessings. My children were here this year and I loved every minute of their being here. We had a wonderful time. We had a warm house and plenty of food and gifts. A lot of people did not.
I never want to seem ungrateful because I am so very blessed in so many ways. So….why do I still have this sad, grinch like feeling the past few years? The obvious pops into my head. I miss my parents, I miss being the wondrous child, I miss having a huge extended family, I miss my mother, sister, daughter, cousins, and aunts being in the kitchen laughing and cooking all day.
I miss having enough people to sit down around the table after dinner to play cards and games. We used to have so many people we had to take turns to get to sit in on the games. Now I can’t scrape up enough people to even play a game.
We wait all year for this one day, seems like it will never come. It comes and is gone in the blink of an eye. All the hours decorating, cooking, shopping….gone in a minute… Then you don’t have the desire to put the decorations away. So my little trees are sitting there unlit waiting for me to put them away or turn them on. I do nothing.
A good memory is a wonderful thing…it can also be a painful thing. I want good memories, but I don’t want to let them consume me as they often do. I often find my mind going back to when I was little. We lived in a little house in the country, ironically across the highway from the strip club with a huge silver pony that Emily our deluded diva herself along with Marie and Norma had their picture taken on. Loved that!
That little house though represented all that I so miss now. Mama and Daddy would hide the presents or so they thought 🙂 They were very smart people, but years later my sister and brother and I would remind them that the house was the size of a cracker box and we had ONE central closet in the middle of the house. Guess where they hid our presents? Yep, in that closet. We had been playing with them for weeks when they didn’t know.
One year we got a new stereo with some Elvis Presley records. We had even played the records! My sister and I deserved an academy award for our surprised look on Christmas Day. Our little brother had been playing with his little army men for weeks too and he wasn’t as good at hiding his surprise so we would cover his mouth or sit on him, anything to keep him quiet.
Of course those were the gifts from Mama and Daddy. Santa was another story. We still set out some cookies and milk for him. We would get a thank you letter by the empty plate, not smart enough to notice that it was Daddy’s handwriting that said "HO, HO, HO, thank you for the cookies!"
Only your parents could then sit through a hand written play with sheets as the stage curtains while we put on a hokey play complete with baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph, not to mention dialogue that we used with some kind of accent we made up to sound like we were from Jerusalem. And the applause and pride that our parents showed made us feel like a million dollars, like we were the smartest little children in the whole world.
Santa would come in the middle of the night, and if one of us happened to notice it around 2 AM, then 2 AM it was that we went in and discovered our treasures. Mama and Daddy never said go back to bed and we will see it the morning. They would beam and turn on the lights and we would with great wonder and happiness go through our gifts from "Santa". Looking back now, I realize they probably spent 2 months salaries to be able to give us all that stuff that we credited Santa for giving us. They didn’t even get the thank you’s. All they got was what they wanted to get, our happiness.
And that they did, we would try to go back to bed and sleep a little while, but usually to no avail. And so Christmas Day began. We would load up some of our gifts to take to show our cousins and grandparents and take off to Grandma’s house. Her little house would be filled to the brim with cousins, aunts, uncles…all loving and warm. We would show everyone some of our Christmas loot and they would show theirs. The feeling of love and security was so strong.
I don’t know that I recognized what I was feeling as a child, all I knew was that it felt good and safe and wonderful.
Most of those feelings were re-created when my own children were small, and the roles were reversed. Their dad and I were the security , the Santa, the ones that watched their plays. And I loved that.
Now I play the grandmother’s part. They all come over here, share their treasures with each other while I look on with love that is almost painful it is so powerful….but as I watch them, it is almost like a trance comes into my head and the ghosts of Christmases past loom in my mind.
I look at the doorway and expect to see my Daddy standing there beaming at us all, Mama issuing out kitchen orders to us girls. The Christmas music is the same….the Silent Nights, the Rudolphs, Walking in a Winter Wonderland….and I can’t separate my thoughts. I am the little girl, my children are the little children, my Mama and Daddy are still in that room.
Merry Sad Happy Glad Christmas….all of the above.