Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday's Words for December 10, 2008

As the Christmas season approaches, I’m reminded of the opening line of a Dickens’ classic. No, not A Christmas Carol, but A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

That’s what this season is for a lot of people, and I suspect that this year it will be more of the latter than the former, and for a lot more people than in years past.

Being laid off from a job is bad, but it feels a lot worse when it happens just before Christmas. We all know that we’re supposed to live wisely, putting money away for ‘a rainy day’. We all know that, but really, few of us do. So when life decides it’s time to kick us in the butt, we’re left woefully unprepared.

Christmas is also a time for family and friends, and so consequently a time when we miss our departed loved ones the most. This is something I know about firsthand. At this time of year, there is always at least one day when I simply break. So many of my loved ones are gone. My mother, my father; my mother-in-law, my father-in-law. My best friend Jim, who has been gone twelve years already! A granddaughter who never got to see even her first Christmas, and of course, her daddy—my son.

As much as I’m a care-taker, as much as I enjoy doing for others, December more than any other month sees days when I wish I was tucked away in a mountain cabin somewhere, with books to read, music and a fireplace, a bit of food—alone.

That’s normal, I think, and something that those who’ve never suffered real loss have difficulty understanding. Usually, when we encounter people who are suffering the blues this time of year, our first instinct is to cheer them up. That’s a good instinct, one worthy of pursuit. Just don’t be overly upset if the cheering doesn’t work one hundred percent. Sometimes, no matter how long it’s been since our loss, it’s necessary to grieve just a little bit more from time to time.

How I feel about Christmas has changed through the years. Is it like that for you, too? We look forward to the holiday with almost euphoric joy when we’re kids, because Santa Claus is coming! We believe in magic, that anything is possible.

Then as we become teens and young adults, we still look forward to the holiday with some anticipation, for although Santa no longer brings us toys, hopefully Mom and Dad got the hint and got us that one really great present we want. If we’re in our early twenties, newly employed, we’re also excited waiting to see what Mom and Dad think of the gift—sometimes the first real gift—we got for them.

Then when we are beginning our families, and our children are small, Christmas is once more joyful, as we do everything in our power to surprise and please our little ones. For us at that point, it’s all about the smiles and the eyes wide with wonder.
Then sometimes, providing a bountiful Christmas for our growing families can be a bit stressful. It seems as if each year things cost more, and sometimes our means don’t quite match our ambitions. We do our best, but sometimes we’re left feeling inadequate—and for a few years, we may dread the Yuletide for this very reason.

I’d like to think that as we continue to age, and as we become grandparents that our pleasure and anticipation of this holiday comes full circle. Because we’ve lived and struggled, lost and endured, our pleasure is deeper, more meaningful now—joy tempered with every other emotion under the sun, yet still sparkling with just a touch of magic.

Our enjoyment of the holiday no longer comes from things wrapped and placed under the boughs of a decorated tree, or items purchased at the local mall. Our pleasure comes instead from time spent together, the music of conversation and laughter, and memories we make that will last the rest of our lives.

A mainstream romance

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