It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Christmas is for most people a time of mixed emotions and mixed blessings. I personally reflect on the loved ones that are no longer with me to celebrate this year. Probably the most tragic of those however, is my 22 year old nephew that died this past January.
As the season has approached the realization that my daughter’s birthday and my nephew’s birthday (one day apart, falling on the day before and on Thanksgiving Day,) would cast a dark shadow on the holiday season for all involved. In the past I have been the sole arbiter for holiday celebrations in my family. It has been my practice in years past to host the usual holiday events for my family. This year, however my heart wasn’t in it. I felt the weight of all the sadness of the past year calling me to a glass of wine and a quiet day ignoring the holiday completely.
In addition, this year has been financially the most challenging year of my life. It is clear that my “gift-giving” is going to be limited at best this year. The realities that my future in our dream home, the future of my business, and frankly my future in general is at best tenuous. As I type this I realize that each and every person reading this has their own pressures, and concerns this holiday season. The temptation to allow financial concerns and personal issues and traumas to overshadow the happiness of the holiday season is not only understandable, but frankly it’s expected.
While preparing for Thanksgiving, it’s been my practice to decorate for Christmas, the week before. This year, however was different. I delegated the Thanksgiving festivities to my younger sister. Honestly, I had no intention at that point of putting up a single Christmas tree, much less the menagerie of décor that normally adorn my home during the holiday, and the nine Christmas trees that had been a regular fixture in my home.
As the holiday neared, however a simple truth seemed to nag at my heart. The one thing that even during my darkest moments, even during the most macabre horrific events of my life, had been the single point of comfort for me was my Grandmother’s unfailing stability.
Now, I know gentle reader you’re asking yourself about now, how in the heck does any of this have the slightest thing to do with my Christmas holiday? Indulge me for a bit, and I believe my “Momaw” might be able to help you too.
Until her death, it was a simple truth in my life, that there were a few things you could count on in my life. If you came into my Grandmother’s house any day of the year there were certain things that never changed. 1. There would be a pot of coffee brewing. 2. Even though she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, you’d never find more than a single cigarette in any ash tray. 3. If you did something in my grandmother’s home that you weren’t allowed to do, you would be punished. 4. If you needed anything from my grandmother she would move heaven and earth to make it happen. In addition there were some simple facts that were accepted as part of my life. Christmas would be celebrated at my grandmother’s home at six-thirty on Christmas day, Christmas presents at her home were always carefully wrapped with love, even though they were modest, were always carefully chosen and generally sincerely needed.
Even though I never had the courage to tell my grandmother the horrors of my life, I know now, as I knew then that she would have never batted an eye, she would have believed me unconditionally, and that she would have waded through Hell to make things better for me. Even though I never remember her using the words “I love you”, I never for a single moment doubted it. Even though most people would have viewed my grandmother as a “cold” woman, she was as beautiful a soul as I ever encountered.
As I sit with tears in my eyes, typing this humble blog, I miss that. I miss my grandmother’s distant look at the tree as I knew she mourned her son, her husband, and her parents. Her pain however never interfered with making sure, as a boy, I knew there was a place that was safe, that there was a place where the rules never changed, and that on Christmas Day, at six thirty, there would be a tree for me to admire. The last year my grandmother was alive, I believe with all my heart she knew it was her last Christmas. She insisted that I host our family Christmas for that year. At the time I argued, and dismissed the idea, however, at my grandmother’s insistence, I did just that. That began a new “tradition”. Christmas was at my home, at six-thirty on Christmas Day. My siblings’ children became fond of Christmas with Uncle Blake. Every year I’ve tried to decorate, and create an environment that when I’m gone from this earth, there’ll be some continuity in the fabric with which my family is woven.
I don’t know if my daughter will be able to enjoy Christmas this year without my nephew, I don’t know if she’ll even choose to celebrate at all. For that matter I doubt I’ll be ready to break into Christmas carols, but one fact caused me to pull out those hundreds of totes containing the Christmas decorations that I’ve collected over many, many years. I sit now, looking at the twelve foot Victorian tree in my foyer through tear stained eyes. That simple fact is that when and if my daughter is able to celebrate, I want her to know that nothing… nothing, will change the fact that as long as Dad is around, Christmas dinner is at Blake’s house, six thirty, Christmas Day.
I am a writer. I think that statement sums up who I am, at the core. I also am an avid reader, mostly of the classics. I spend the bulk of my time working at the restaurant I own, and operate. It is both a joy, and an intense source of stress. I spend the remainder of my time divided between my family, church, community and many charitable, and other volunteer pursuits. I enjoy music, making it, and listening to it. I’ve have performed both vocally, and as a pianist, since the age of twelve.