Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Ghost of Christmas Past

This season is among other things a time for remembering. Holiday celebrations from the past bounce in and out of memory like DVD's in skip chapter mode. My memories are story book Christmas'. Some good, some bad. All the Christmas cliches have at one year or another been left under my tree.

The early years, war years for the most part, were home made gifts and warm gatherings of uncles, aunts and cousins at my grandparents parsonage, my home. Always church services across the street on Christmas eve and the the inevitable peaking and sneaking, my cousin and I looking for Santa. Rides in a "one horse open sleigh".Christmas morning someone would always receive "the red bird". The picture of a Cardinal passed from year to year through the family accompanied by great outbursts of laughter. One year my mother and aunt unwrapped and re-wrapped all the presents just to see what they were getting.

Our first Christmas in Florida was lean and I cut down a small long needle pine from the vacant lot next door for a tree and made paper decorations.

Just after the second separation from my second wife I was living alone above the restaurant we had just sold. It was one of the coldest Christmas' St. Petersburg had known on a long time. Walking by the Begonias coated in ice and I left the presents for the kids on the front porch of the house. I spent the rest of the day alone.

The first year my second step-father, Walter and mother were married it was a present fest. My two preteen sisters and I were still living at home and shredded wrapping paper was ankle deep on the floor. Walter had started the tradition of wrapping up many small gifts, like pencils and key chains and paper clips and other bits of ephemera and filling a stocking for everyone. Of course Mom's was in a woman's stocking.

There have been scenes like in the movie "Avalon" where the turkey gets cut before the whole family is assembled and members leave in anything but a Christmas spirit. O.K., it was Thanksgiving and they were Jewish but it's a holiday and someone is miffed. That's a tradition and it's archtypical. Or in "A Christmas Story" where dinner is in a Chinese restaurant. There have been the frantic trips from in-law to in-law trying not to eat too much because each insists on further feasting. Who can ever forget those long nights waiting outside the ancestor of Wal-mart Christmas eve to get one of three swing sets that go on sale at midnight for ten dollars. And then having to assemble the thing, flashlight in hand, in the early morning hours only to be awakened by bouncing kids half hour after finally getting to sleep.

This Christmas Wanda and I will be blissfully alone on the mountain. This afternoon we're heading to Slaughters market in Floyd to get Christmas dinner for ourselves and then leave seasons greetings to our friends there. We're not exchanging gifts this year other then the love we give each other every day. The house was decorated, except for the tree ornaments which my wife insists is her job, and the stars were brightly shinning when she returned from Raleigh last night. Tomorrow we'll be off to the little church in Willis and then back to the peace, tranquility and beauty of the day on Groundhog Mountain. I wish the same for all.


Blogger Bonita said...

Have a very special Christmas, Dave and Wanda - and I know how special the peace is on the mountain in your very special neck of the Woods. (I read Fred First's "Fragments from Floyd now and then.)

I too had a sparce Christmas, the year I separated from my first husband. My daughter was 2, and my budget allowed $3.00 for Christmas. I went out in the field behind ,my house, pulled up a tumble weed, and put it in a vase. We used some colored pages from a magazine, made paper ornaments with it, and hung them from the tree. I spent all my money on stamps, to stay in touch with friends and family living far away. If only I could have had a view of my life to this day, then. What a difference that would have made. I'm like you, I count my blessings over and over and over.

4:53 PM  

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