Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Spirit of Christmas Past

By the time this Christmas comes, I shall have been on this dirtball for half a's sometimes hard to grasp that, I think.  I don't 'feel' that old, and I don't think I look quite that old.  It seems like only yesterday I was a kid,  I guess I still am, at heart.

I remember pieces of Christmas past, many of them.  The rarity of a white Christmas in Kansas, or even more rare, in Texas.  A couple years ago, a winter storm stalled out right on top of DFW.  We were supposed to only get 1-3" white fluffy, but in reality it was between 10-14".  That, in the land of limited snow removal equipment!  It was awesome!

It brought back fond memories of all the snows in Kansas as a kid--often more sleet and snow mix, but that just made for even better sledding, as the sleet would solidify into a hard sheet of ice.  You could really FLY downhill on campus, there below the Campanile, and Potters Pond.  I once broke a runner-sled, I caught so much air on the downhill run!  Or of the crazy stupid stuff we did as kids, sledding through the trackless woods, I still don't know how we managed to always avoid serious injury crashing into the trees.  But we did...oh the invincibility of youth!

I always loved putting the tree up, but my secret favorite is the outdoor Christmas lights.  I suppose that's why those dumb Chevy Chase movies struck a chord with me...I must be a Griswold at heart!  I wish I was more creative in putting out our lights.  I wish they made better quality (durability) lights these days--even the LED lights don't last long.

I remember one year, as a young adult/late teen, still enamored of checking out the packages as they appeared under the tree.  There appeared a larger box, fairly heavy and not noisy at all.  It said on the label, to Mom, love Dad.  I would've shrugged and ignored it from then on--it wasn't mine after all!  Until, as I was handing out presents on Christmas morn, I handed that to Mom, and she laughed, telling me to read the label again!  Those sneaky buggers!  They had relabeled it with my name the night before!  IIRC, it was a VHS player, and it was used for a great many years.  In fact it may still be on our current TV stand, though not used any more, having been replaced by a more reliable DVR system.

As a child I was an inveterate package shaker, and probably could have gotten a job with a TLA as a Crate-ologist!  I was good, back then, at deciphering box contents based on size, shape, weight, and noise levels.  One year I recall cheating.  I finally figured out how to lift the scotch tape without tearing the paper underneath, and just HAD to know what some of my gifts were.... You guessed it, that act ruined the surprise and joy of the day, and I don't even remember what the gifts were, that I had to sneak a peek at.  It was one of those steps in life, where you finally do begin to learn it is better for the soul to give than to receive.

Setting out cookies and milk for Mom and Dad, oops, I mean Santa.  (MonkeyBoy suggested a glass of American Honey liqueur for Santa this year!)  As a kid, taking time the night before, with my Dad, to get the fireplace ready for a rare fire (the older I got, the more rare the fire for some reason).  Rolling up the scrap newspapers, and tying them in knots for kindling, and picking the split logs to be sure it all caught nicely the next day.  The excitement of seeing the overflowing stockings the next morning...there was always an orange in the toe of the stocking, and some mixed nuts in shell.  Sitting on the hearth, my back to the hot fire, warming myself up.

I'm trying to give our kids some traditions around Christmas.  We are trying to make sure the kids know the true meaning of Christmas, not the retail-reality.  Like me, one Monkey is an early Christmas Present (birthday just before Christmas) and it makes it a little harder when all your gifts come in one week, where the other two are summer children, and get half their stuff then.  So with birthdays, each birthday-child gives the other two a small gift, so that they learn to give, not just receive, and also to make it a little easier on the December child.

This year the Monkeys decorated the tree.  I guess they really are growing up...the tree looks super, and has all our special family ornaments on it, as well as a bunch of little homemade ones the kids have produced over the years.  We have also received from a dear friend, a Christmas village.  I love it!  My Aunt Max had a huge collection of Christmas village pieces, and I helped her set it up one year, and loved the whole concept.  Our friend, in cleaning out his house, gave us his village pieces.  I just need to get some cotton batting to put down as snow....and a larger table!

One silly tradition we have is the Christmas Jayhawk.  Yes, I am a Jayhawk by birth, Texan by the grace of God.  I got from my mom years ago, a small Jayhawk cross stitch ornament.  If you squeeze it just right, the mouth opens, and you can stick a note or a piece of candy in it.  For the kids, if they behave, the Jayhawk will leave one child a piece of candy on their particular December days (every 3rd day here), and he also likes to hide on the tree, moving every night.

In years past, my early riser son would get up, find the Jayhawk, and eat the candy, even if it wasn't his specific day!  This resulted in the forfeiture of his next candy day, and the expected wailing and whining.  This year, as they couldn't decide in what order they should receive their Jayhawk-days, the Jayhawk was generous, and has been giving treats to all 3 of them daily, except when they misbehave.  They're old enough now to have figured out the Jayhawk's secret, but it was fun while it lasted, maintaining the illusion of magic.  I suspect I will need to figure out how to make two more Jayhawk ornaments they each will have one to take with them when they are all grown up.

I can understand why some folks have a harder time emotionally at Christmas.  Sometimes, death casts its pall over the holidays, making for a far more somber occasion than is the norm.  Other times illness in a family causes strain.  Sometimes it is even THE family that causes the strain for some folks.  We have been blessed, in that it is only the first two, which have darkened our doorsteps here at the casa.  You may think it strange for me to say we have been blessed, but I don't.  Death brings family together, who are often far-flung these days.  It brings remembrance, and introspection, and if you are fortunate, a willingness and desire to fix flaws in your own life, to honor and remember those now gone from our daily lives.

Illness, chronic or acute, grinds you down, daily wearing thin the social niceties one expects to see.  The hard part is the struggle to get back to 'normal', but at least there is a chance to fight for normality.  Remembering, that there are tests in life, and this will merely be one of them.  Trusting in God's purposes in one's life helps, I find, especially when I cannot fix what is wrong, but can only offer support.  I need to work on remembering that I choose how I feel each day, choose how I react to others actions, making a conscious effort to keep in mind the commandment given to us in John 13:34-35.

For Christmas is the remembrance of the greatest love.  A birth in the season of winter-death.  And hidden on the Christmas tree, is a reminder of that other tree, one on which the Son gave up his life, that we might gain ours.


  1. That is a nice looking tree, has an old style look to it. Christmas used to be such a wonderful time.

  2. Wonderful memories. I bet the kids sure had a blast in that Dallas snowstorm.

    You asked about the older mare - they do have sweet feed on the premises (and I gave them 2 huge bags of alfalfa cubes) but I don't know how often they are actually feeding it.

  3. Oh back to the simple Christmas without the commercialism that has gone crazy and back to the reason for Christmas is what more of us need. You have beautiful memories and your children will too and theirs and theirs.
    Yeah snowstorm, I am sure it was a welcome sight:) Merry Christmas and yes I wear lined coveralls but it is way cold up here:) Take care B

  4. This is a precious post - THANK YOU for all this powerful sharing.

  5. i really love the memories. i love how my parents (hope no Santa believers are reading this. if so look away!!) kept the Santa myth alive for so long. i think it keeps you young, alive & kid like. in all truth & honesty i would love it if the Santa was true. it is so magical & fun. i love that. why not be a kid-like & remember what it was like to be young again??! no biggie, right??! ( :

  6. You sweet young thing you! Loved reading your memories. I remember a snow storm in Dallas at Christmas ... when I was 6 years old ... many, many, many years ago. The first snow I had ever seen -- fun and cold. Merry Merry and a Happy Happy to you and yours.

  7. What a wonderful post of your dear Christmas memories -- I do believe our generation had some of the best Christmases before commercialism took over... Thank you for sharing at R5F my friend. xo

  8. What a beautiful post; I just loved it. The memories and sweet. And the Jayhawk tradition is a story your children will be telling when they are grown up :

  9. I enjoyed reading your memories and the new traditions that you are experiencing with your family. those traditions help make the holidays a special time. Your children did a great job with the tree!

    Merry Christmas! :-)

  10. What a wonderful sharing of memories, so many similar to mine but for the geography. I love the look of your tree, the house, all things that the children and you, will remember all your lives.

    May you all have a wonderful Christmas.


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