Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pursuit of Happy

This Christmas can be one or the "t'other" as my Gramma used to say. It can and potentially could be the worst Christmas I have ever seen for my family. Face it. It could. It would rival only one in my memory. My senior year found my grandfather spending Christmas critically ill in a hospital 90 miles from our home. We spent Christmas Eve driving around, supposedly looking at lights to give us joy... waiting for time to go see him during visiting hours. I can remember driving along in the back seat all alone with my dad trying to hum a little song he always sang. My mother was quietly crying in the front seat. I saw families gathered around tables, candles and trees glowing through frosty windows... all a part of a world that seemed inaccessible to me, kind of surreal and foreign. I remember saying little. In times of stress that quietness usually describes my modus operandi. I say little. Those who know me might be surprised to hear that since I'm a chatter-er. But in times of trial and "ain't nuthin' to do about it" sadness, why talk?

But, back to my original point. This could be that kind of Christmas... only worse. I'm only certain it won't be the stellar, rock around the clock kind I can remember when I was little, spoiled rotten, and dancing like a veritable Shirley Temple gone berserk for parents and grandparents who doted on my every wiggle and giggle... Oh, those were the fun days, all right. It won't be like that. It also won't be like my favorite Christmases spent with my husband and little red-haired son, eyes like two stars.... waiting for Santa (aka Paw-Paw) to fill the stockings around the big dining room table. You see, my dad is Mr. Christmas. Red shirt tradition. He refused to let Mom EVER leave any of their tubs and tubs of decorations in storage. Last year the two of them put up seven Christmas trees! He has a tree all strung and ready to hit the switch in the loft window of his barn. It would have been lit on Thanksgiving night if I would have had the heart to flip the switch.

Mom and Dad have a cutter sleigh, painted a lovely color although you couldn't pay me to tell you if it's red or green. It was their gift to each other for their first anniversary, and it has always been lovingly placed somewhere in prominence, parked on their lawn, tucked in a porch, perched on a ramp toward the roof, or lately waiting outside the barn for Santa, the blow-up doll, to board its magical bus to holiday-ville. That sleigh won't be out this year. People will tell me we should. I don't really think it matters whether we do or not. The truth is, my son isn't that "into" things like that. His dad never seemed to be either. Some men are, and some aren't. My dad was. His little song, which I believe to be original, went like this, "Merry, merry Christmas to you, dear. Wishing you a lot of love and cheer. Hope we'll be together again next year. Merry, merry Christmas to you, dear." It had a sweet, little, lilting, lyrical tune, and it was just so cool to hear him sing it to my mom. Simple. Gentle. Happy. Very smart, and very quiet... and very busy. That would describe my dad....

I think this Christmas could be very sweet, as well. I am trying to believe that anyway. It isn't as if Christmas is something you can just blow off and say, "Oh, I didn't have a Christmas this year." Nope. It can't be done that way. It is a magical time of year, steeped in love, holiness, and tradition. Sometimes a tradition has to bend; sometimes it has to break. Sometimes new ones begin to replace ones impossible to continue. And even though I'd love to be the little elf that just puddles along behind the sleigh and follows some heroic leader dressed in red, I'm very afraid that this holiday, this particular one in my house could depend upon me to get it off the ground. I know that sounds kind of snooty. And I don't pretend to think that Jesus Christ needs ME to have a happy birthday! But you know what I mean. Jesus wants me to be happy and filled with peace and joy and love. Those things have nothing to do with holly and cedar, reindeer and tinsel. We are told that in song, movie, and verse for all our lives. But somewhere down the line, I think we all come to a point in time when there is a test of those values.

I think the single most important thing I can do to help our family is to try with all my might to tap into the simple, quiet, busy, gentle cheer of the holiday. Do something small and enjoy a moment of tea and homemade cookies, deliver a package to a friend... help my mom.... listen by myself on a frosty dawn morning to my Celtic Christmas album.... I am all too aware of the fragility of this existence, the precarious thresholds we perch upon and call our lives. Thank you, Lord, for each and every gift of each perfect day... for if we don't call them perfect today, we may very well look back on that very "imperfect" world of a few months ago and ache for it... calling it perfection indeed....

As December 1st approaches, I think that might be my resolution: For each day of the month, find at least one and not too many more moments to capture the essence of cheer. I found this quote in a cookbook I love called "The Passionate Palate," by Desire Witowski (not sure about spelling). "Always, always be good to yourself. Never, never beat yourself up for not doing enough, not being enough. It takes away from your life force." Oh, how important to keep that thought in mind during this stressful and busy time...

Where is this little truck in the picture going? It's for sale on Ebay here. "Happy may your Christmas Be..." Is that a blessing or a question? Or a golden possibility posed to each and every one of us? We will know the answer in about four weeks, won't we? Perhaps, like the sons of elders in ages past, I must don the family armour and proceed into the fray... This year the family armour seems to be a red shirt, and the weapon of choice is maybe a sugar cookie, a sprig of holly, and if it can be done, a flip of a switch to honor the heart and soul of a beautiful man who would have done it for me if he could.

9 comments:

Becky K. said...

Gayla,
Very well said. Your Dad sounds like a great man to enjoy Christmas with. Wow! That was a lot of trees. So many cool and unique memories.
I know that you will honor him, and all he meant to you, in your own special and talented way.
Becky K.

Mary Isabella said...

You brought tears to my eyes. Have a great day Mary

Nan said...

I hope this season gives you more joy than anything.

Nan

Dena ~ swaddlecottage said...

Dear Gayla,

I have been right where you are and as I sit here to type this I know that there are no words that can sooth the depth of that ache but my prayers are with you for comfort.

Hugs,
Dena

Laurie4567@aol.com said...

What a touching tribute to your Dad. I know you miss him and Christmas will be very different this year for all of you. Enjoy those bittersweet memories.
Laurie S.

black eyed susans kitchen said...

Gayla, So beautifully written. Hold tight to the memories..they keep the past in the present. Susan

Terri and Bob said...

Absolutely. I miss my dad too, but I know he would be mortified and then devastated if we did not celebrate christmas to the max. He would think he didn't teach us anything at all.

Loved the post.

Cindy said...

I know exactly how you feel, I lost my daddy 13 years ago, and there isnt a day that doesnt go by that I dont think of him. He loved Christmas and oh how he would have loved to see his 4 great grandchildren opening up their gifts. The way you wrote about him, bought tears to my eyes.
Thank you for sharing your stories of your daddy.

GardenGoose said...

so very sorry to read about your dad. I can tell by your writing that you miss him very much, and as such this time of year holds for you very bittersweet feelings. I do hope that in some way though you can learn to create lovely traditions and memories for your own family.