Christmas 2011

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...
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This year Christmas came early in the form of a perfect grand baby. Her birthday in September felt like summer – weather wise. Here it is December and the leaves have turned color. So we have a lovely Fall for Christmas. And grand baby has doubled her birth weight into a dimpled little round thing with great lungs.

Thankfully this old house has extra thick walls. This doesn’t help my daughter to sleep because baby sleeps  in her room.

Christmas brought activity that didn’t involve a tree or lights. Amongst many calamities, serving a hot meal, making sure the dog got outside occasionally, or staying calm took priority rather than a trip to the attic, decorating, un-decorating, and then re-stocking the attic. Call me Scrooge. Seems we are spending the important holiday moments at someone else’s house with someone else’s decorations anyway.

Besides, I am feeling Scroogish.

Perhaps I feel this way because we didn’t drive around looking at lights in the neighborhood, or because I didn’t turn up the volume to endless holiday songs whilst wrapping gifts, or the fact that we visited Santa at the mall with the baby before Thanksgiving. Christmas just snuck up and walked past while I was looking the other way. I suddenly realized it while singing carols in church last Sunday. Whoa! It’s Christmas.

When I was very young and living in South Houston, Christmas was a big affair. Huge. My parents went all out with the decor. Lights, the tree touched the ceiling, streamers from corner to corner of the living room like a used car lot. We had a cardboard fireplace taped to the wall with a tin electric fire. It didn’t put off any heat. The nearby gas heater did and that was enough. Some Christmases the warm weather outside made even the fake fire warmish. That’s weather in Houston.

We didn’t receive gifts or toys during the year, ever. Instead my mother bought what she bought all year long and saved them, wrapped, in some t0-this-day-secret place until Christmas morning. What good, I ask you, were three brothers if none of them could discover the secret hiding place? Was there not a curious bone in any other them? Humpf!

I learned years later from my older brother that we were poor! I never knew. I thought we were kings and queens living as we did in our yellow asbestos shingle home with the white rock roof. I was inordinately proud of that canary yellow house. Even if the rock rained off the roof when the wind blew and the tar would drip when the weather got really hot. There was a pot of tar in the back yard that I would play in when it was soft.  I grew up happy in my world of dolls, lizards, mud pies and climbin’ trees. My brother Jon and I went fishing in the summer, caught crawfish in the flooded ditches in the spring with a string and a piece of bacon, (it was the novelty capturing these alien bug-like creatures – we didn’t discover eating them until we were grown), and we rode our bikes to grandma’s house every season of the year for more trees to climb and her chocolate chip cookies. Life was good. Poor? No way!

Maybe that’s why my mother used the same tinsel every year (and scraping it off the tree after Christmas was tedious) and she cut napkins in half throughout the year (also tedious).

There is something about being appreciative of things when you are small, something about seeing value in everything outside of the presents under the tree. Like enjoying the box more than what was in the box.

Maybe my parents had the right idea about not giving us anything (new) all year. Maybe the anticipation was the really special thing about Christmas. These days it is all too easy to give and get all of the time. What else are those shelves of items along the check out lines for? For you to suddenly realize what you needed. Or for the kids to scream and throw tantrums for. (The only time I ever shop-lifted was a package of Chiclets from the line. My grandmother caught me chewing the gum and made me take a hard-earned nickel to pay the store manager. I seriously never stole a thing ever again.)

Our grand baby doesn’t care about Christmas presents, decorations, or tinsel. Though she does love shiny things – her eyes get huge and she has that way of smiling that melts me. This year she doesn’t even care about the box. All she wants for Christmas is us – those who love her.

And that’s what she is getting.

Merry Christmas Y’all!

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