A gift for Christmas

blogimg_1376-2

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” ~ Roy L. Smith 

I have this life-long friend. She’s been in my closest circle of cherished ones from way back when.

We played Barbies and a myriad of other pretend games together as children; lounged by her folks’ swimming pool and dreamed of our weddings as teenagers; were actually in each other’s weddings as young adults, and laughed and cried together as we have matured into older adults.

If I could give her the best gift ever this Christmas, I would give her a do-over of this stressful year she’s experienced all wrapped up in gold, glittering paper and tied with an enormous red fluffy bow. Because as crazy as my year has been, hers has been a doozy.

Not only has she endured surgery, chemo, and radiation in her battle against that dreaded disease – cancer – this year, she also lost her father just a few weeks ago. Her husband is still recovering himself from some orthopedic surgery.  Her grown children live hours away from her. And now, she’s hospitalized in excruciating pain from a complication that she never saw coming.

Sometimes this life on earth is just… Too. Much.  And I cry for my friend because I do understand. Often we face the proverbial straw that breaks that camel’s back, the one that breaks our will, breaks our hearts, breaks just about everything in us.  And we truly have to fight the hardest battle ever just to overcome our brokenness.

And on top of everything else, it’s Christmas. Ho. Ho. Ho. The most wonderful time of the year. Joy to the world.

Christmas, when there is so much to do in preparation. Cards to send. Gift shopping and wrapping to be done. Decorating. Baking. The list goes on….and on….and on.

And accomplishing those things are just a few of the holiday preparations that my friend truly enjoys. Christmas makes her happy.  But not this year.

This year, she lies in a hospital, a good hour and a half away from her home, in pain and fretting over all the things she hasn’t been able to do.  And yes, by her own words, having herself “a pity party.”

As her lifelong friend, I wish I could make it all better for her. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make her pain disappear but even the doctors can’t do that – they’ve cautioned her that recovery will take time.

I wish I could sprinkle magic fairy dust over her home, quite a distance from mine, and all her decorating and holiday preparations would be complete.

I wish I could say some magic words that would conjure up a Christmas elf to buy and wrap all the gifts she wants to give her family.

But I cannot. I am only human. I have no magic powers or instruments. I can’t even visit her in the hospital because the flu has infiltrated my home and I don’t want to be the bearer of bad viruses and compromise her already delicate immune system, so I must visit with her via cell phone.

So I do the only thing I can do.  I listen. I let her vent her frustrations, her sadness, her disappointment, and yes, even her anger at this latest attack on her health. I tell her through my own tears that I’m sorry, that I hate that she has to go through this time.

I tell her not to fret, not to worry about what doesn’t get accomplished in time for Christmas. I encourage her to just concentrate on getting well and being able to go home soon.

But I don’t tell her the words she doesn’t want to hear, even though they are right there on the tip of my tongue.

“Don’t tell me things will get better,” she says. “I don’t want to hear that.”

So I close my mouth and swallow down those words, those words of platitude that we so often use, when honestly, we don’t really know what else to say.

And then I do the only other thing that comes to my mind, to my heart, to my soul. I ask her if I can pray with her right here, right now on this wireless device that connects us audibly even though our hearts are and always will be connected by friendship and love.

And she says yes.

And I hope and I pray that for just those few moments of prayer, Christmas – the one without all the preparation and fuss – flourished in her heart as it did mine.

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Advertisements

Still longing

blogchristmas1

With my new dolly in 1957

(A note from Mama:  I’m reblogging this post I wrote in December 2013, so for my long-time readers, if it sounds familiar, it is.   I find that I’m still longing for that old fashioned Christmas.  Maybe you are too.)

Maybe it’s just my middle age.  Maybe it’s the empty nest thing.  Or maybe it’s just that I have more time on my hands to spend reflecting on the past.  Whatever it is, I find myself singing the words to an old Frank Sinatra Christmas song.

“Give me an old fashioned Christmas, an old fashioned Christmas,

 Family faces, wide open spaces, covered with snow.”

This Christmas here at Mama’s Empty Nest there will be family faces.  And wide open spaces at our country home for certain.  Right now those spaces are covered with snow and hopefully we won’t just be dreaming of a white Christmas.

In my heart,  I’m longing for an old fashioned Christmas – one with less hurry and scurry.  One with deeper meaning.  One with a simpler celebration.  And I’m determined to accomplish it.  Oh, my Christmas to-do list bounces around my brain but I’m simplifying it.  I’m not scouring Pinterest for decorating ideas or cookie recipes or fancy Christmas dinner menus.

I’m sticking to the basics but even abbreviating those.  Christmas cards are signed, sealed, and delivered but this year I opted for fewer cards and a shorter Christmas note.  Decorating our home is completed but not all of the décor, just some favorites, made it out of the storage boxes.  The oven will fire up for some cookie baking but not the usual marathon, just two or three kinds instead of a huge assortment.  Simple meal preparation will follow suit.

Downsizing for a simple Christmas almost doesn’t make sense though.  This year is different than Christmases past when I squeezed in all of the preparations and scarcely had enough time to do it all.  I have more free time on my hands than usual and you would think that would entice me to really do Christmas up big.  Fancy.  Over the top.  One to remember.

But then I recall Christmas as a child.   Do I remember anything fancy?    Do exquisitely wrapped packages with expensive gifts inside come to my mind?  Fine cuisine?  A beautiful and elaborately decorated home?  Do I recollect an over the top celebration?

What I remember from childhood Christmases are simple aspects.  My father would usually bring the Christmas tree home with him one day after work.  Sometimes that wouldn’t be until shortly before Christmas and one year I remember actually decorating the tree on Christmas Eve.

After my older sisters married, they spent Christmas Eve with their in-law families so that meant my parents and I usually attended candle-light service at church to welcome the Christ child.  Before the service, my father would drive us around our area to see neighbors’ homes Christmas light displays and we would ooh and aah over those that glowed the brightest.

No fireplace existed at my childhood home, but I still hung up my stocking over the knob of the front door.  I would be so excited for Christmas morning that I could barely sleep.  When Christmas Day arrived, my stocking bulged full of goodies although not with toys, gadgets, and gizmos.  

Dumping it out, I would discover a huge juicy orange, a shiny red apple, mixed nuts in their shells, candy canes, and other Christmas candy.  And I would be delighted with the yummy treats even though they were practically the same every year.  Nestled beneath the Christmas tree, I’d find one or two specially requested simple toys – a doll, a game, or one exciting year, a beautiful blue bicycle –  just for me. 

That afternoon brought our entire family gathered together and crowded into the living room around a simple Scotch pine real tree covered in old-fashioned strings of lights with colored bulbs, metallic icicles, and the same ornaments year after year.  It wasn’t a fancy themed tree; instead a hodge-podge collection adorned that prickly-needled fir which filled the air with the pungent scent of pine.

We exchanged gifts – real honest to goodness gifts that were purchased with thoughtfulness and consideration instead of gift cards or envelopes of money.  And we laughed, and we exclaimed over our wonderful presents, and we thanked one another with smiles and hearty hugs.

My mother prepared a simple but abundant and appetizing meal displayed on the dining room table – no fancy recipes, no exquisite table centerpieces/decorations to make it look like a photo spread from a magazine.  And we bowed our heads thanking God for the most precious gift of all – His Son Jesus Christ – and for our provision of food and family.

After dinner, one of us occupied the bench at our upright piano to plunk out Christmas carols while the rest of us sang the well-known tunes over and over again.  We’d eat dessert and commence a few rousing rounds of cards or games or sometimes just putting a new jigsaw puzzle together.

A simple Christmas.  Not photo worthy because of the food, the glitz, the gifts, or the amount of money spent.   A Christmas worth remembering because of love, gratitude, and joy felt and appreciated when a family assembles to celebrate.

That’s my idea of an old-fashioned Christmas and that’s what I’m hoping for this Christmas.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”  ~ Bob Hope

©2013 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com