Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Memories

In the rush of work and bustle of life I must make time to pull out the good memories of times past. It seems so often the bad memories come uninvited whereas the good memories, polite and refined wait their turn.
In my childhood Christmas everyone is happy. It was that sort of special day. Mom and Dad in pyjamas. The kids around the tree. A dog barking or doing circles and slipping on the hard wood floor as Dad teased him with dog biscuits. The present opening was what I was excited by at first. Santa Clause was my Christmas then.
Later it was the family and dog and all of us sitting about the tree eating the mandarin oranges and opening presents. I remember a smiling Mom folding wrapping paper up for use another year as my brother and I couldn't rip the paper open fast enough. Dad was such a prankster and jokester at Christmas time. He was then the way he was on summer vacations and hunting weekends not the work week Dad so serious and tired and easily angered watching the latest Cold War news each night.
The best part was when Aunt Sally came. She was so full of cheer. Elegant from Toronto, dressed in the latest fashion. Mom and her sister and friends happy together and Dad teased relentlessness then. And special treats for us kids.
The turkey dinner was always fun with delicious mashed potatoes and gravy. And grace. Aunt Sally and Mom insisted on Grace. Dad was all for digging in. The dog was ready for under the table treats.
Christmas was such a happy occasion in my childhood.
I don't remember the consumerism yet presents were so important. There was a special toy that was given but most of the gifts were things we actually needed but were saved to put wrapped in paper and put under the tree. Socks and pyjamas. Always flannel pyjamas, scarves. The fun was flashing through those 'clothing' gifts to get to the 'toy'. And now I don't remember what those toys were. They were so important then.
Christmas was going to church too. My fondest memories are when I was a child and performed in the nativity scenes. As children we went downstairs during the services for Sunday School but would come up to perform for our parents and join in the Christmas carole singing enjoying the warmth and togetherness of being with Mom and Dad and all the other families. Christmas in church was a special family time. And sometimes we'd have a great turkey dinner in the church basement with alot of the congregation. Mom always helped in the kitchen then.
Later when I was older it was a more serious affair. I was more reserved and so were my brother and parents. A more sedate but happy time. The holidays were then more about toboganning and getting together with friends later in the day. Skating on the river. Cross country skiing.
Then the girlfriends and later wives joined in. The family grew bigger. And Christmas dinners doubled as we'd go to one family for Christmas Eve dinner and the other for Christmas day dinner. A lot of feasting. Alot more adult conversations. The parents always asking about school or work.
Then my nephews came. Squalling babies with ever attentive mother and father.
And then we were apart. I moved south and west and my brother and his family moved west then east. Christmas was never so big again. I'd be with Mom and Dad or later with my brother and his family. Or I'd be with a wife and then I'd be alone.
More I'd spend time in church. More I'd find myself in a wooden pew praying. The parties would go on. There'd be shrimp and lobster and women would dress with flair and fashion. The hometown background had changed to exotic places around the world. But the church stayed the same.
Birth of Christ. What does that mean? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What is the meaning of my life? Help me God. Guide me. Be with me. Show me the way. Come into my life and lead me.
Jesus mean's "God within" and Christ means "God will come again". There's the historical Jesus and Christ transcendent. There's Jesus as the advocate and reconciler. There's God of Creation and God my friend.
The feeling of Christmas remains gifts and searching for gifts. But more it's the feeling I have in prayer. More it's the quiet time in a church. More it's the space in the evening or morning when I look at nature and whisper thanks. More I'm on a sailboat in the wonders of a sunrise or sunset, awed. Sometimes I'm standing on a snowy hill looking out over a beautiful valley of green pine trees and blue waters.
Then I'm in the laughter of friends and family, thankful. It's a time of celebration. The coming of the light. The birth of Christ. It's a feeling of hope and the sense of the presence of God within, saying 'it's okay, it's going to be okay."

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