I awoke today thinking about Christmases past. I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas at my home. I’d like to take you to my there for a bit…don’t worry, you’ll be home in time for supper. 🙂
This house, my home place, wasn’t always this dark or cold on Christamas Day. This kitchen/dining room is small, but that just made the love bounce around more, leaving smiles on every person’s face. I used to sit at that table, which was usually decked out in a red tablecloth with a gorgeous poinsettia centerpiece in the middle, and created a homemade “WELCOME HOME” sign for my sister. She was away at Hyles-Anderson College and I was counting down the days, literally, until my roommate would return for the holidays. Mom would be busy at the stove preparing her delicious stew. Dad sat in the recliner next to a blazing fireplace in the den. The den, which was next to the kitchen was only my second favorite room in the house. I loved sitting in the recliner next to that fireplace. It looks so lifeless today. It used to breathe cheer to all through this room.
What’s my favorite room? It’s the one right off the den. The living room. Truly, it is the room in which I lived during the holidays. Our Christmas tree was all decorated and shining beautifully in this room. Each year, right after Thanksgiving, I would eagerly “drag” my Dad out to our shed to bring in the Christmas decorations. He would lift and strain, veins and muscles bulging, to bring in each box. I un-packed them carefully and decorated our tree. But, it was a task that could not be done without one thing: Nat. King. Cole. That’s right. I had to have his Christmas record playing in the background, or decorating simply could not be done. (You can hear my favorite selection from that album by going to my featured video on the right hand side of this page, behind the photo gallery.)
It was heaven when school dismissed for two glorious weeks! I happily brought in the homemade Christmas crafts we made at school. Slowly, the gifts would pile up underneath that now absent tree. I admit it, I couldn’t resist shaking or smelling some of mine. That decorative soap my sister bought me one year really had me guessing! Dad and Mom would let me make a pallet on the floor beside the tree some nights. I loved sleeping in the glow of those multi-colored Christmas lights! On the floor beneath the tree, was a small nativity scene, which had a loft right above where baby Jesus lay. I would lie there and dream about what it would have been like to be in a loft the night the real Saviour was born.
My bedroom looked very different back then. There used to be two twin beds in here. Mine was a springy trundle bed that was up against a wall on one long side. I remember one year, when I was about ten, my brother preached a sermon in our chapel time in school about what we would give Jesus on His birthday. He told us how we often get so caught up in giving gifts to each other, that we neglect the One about whom the day is all about. He told us that Jesus simply wanted us as a gift. I sincerely wanted to remember Jesus that year, so I made a sign and taped it up on the wall, right by my bed. The sign said “Don’t forget to give Jesus his present.” First thing on Christmas morning, I prayed and thanked God for His Son, and gave Him my life. I’m sure it sounds corny to you, after all, I wasn’t even saved, but I was sincere in wanting to give Jesus my all. I’m sorry to say that since then, I haven’t been as giving. Perhaps I’ll re-gift myself to Him again this year! I’m always wanting to do more, and be more, for Him.
Christmas Day was always such a happy day! My sister was home, telling all about college life. My Aunt Kathleen and Grandmother from Phoenix, Arizona, were visiting us. My brother, Kevin, and his family would join us on the big day. My nephew, Levi, was a roly-poly butter ball of fun! I loved playing with him! The fireplace was roaring and good smells poured forth from that now darkened kitchen. Kathleen would be telling us stories about her year past, my Grandmother would be seated on the sofa, beneath a blanket, just taking it all in with a smile. Dad was always laughing and making jokes. I can still see him sitting in the tan recliner wearing a flannel shirt, tucked inside his crisp jeans. Our stockings were bulging from the mantle, and I couldn’t wait for the gift giving, and receiving, to begin!
After a quick breakfast, we gathered in our living room to open gifts. I can recall many of them! One year, I got a set of the Chronicles of Narnia as a gift from my Aunt. I didn’t realize at the time that one day my oldest child would enjoy them far more than I ever would. She has read each one more than once! The covers are torn and wrinkled, but it’s because the books have been well loved. I could go on and on, telling you about many other gifts which have meant so much to me over the years, but I’ll spare you the details. As we all gathered around the tree, coffee and hot cocoa in hand, we didn’t think about the work that needed to be done. We didn’t think about loved ones boarding planes, heading back to work and college. I didn’t think about the impending math test that awaited me upon my return to school. As you looked around the room at happy eyes and heard the joyful laughter, oohs and aahs, all you could see was the wealth of our family. Not because of the piles of gifts around each person’s seats, but because we had each other. People are more important than things, and we had lots of people. We were, indeed, rich.
Eventually, however, the happy Christmas Days would pass. Melanie would board a plane for Chicago/O’Hare. This bedroom that was once askew with suitcases and gifts, would now be quite empty in comparison. Only the Lord knows how many lonely tears soaked my pillow for many nights after. Kathleen and Grandmother would head back to arid Arizona. Mom and Dad would go back to work, and I, back to school. (And that aweful math test.)
When Melanie got married, everything seemed different at Christmas. Finally, things changed forever when Dad graduated to Heaven five and a half years ago. Christmas, as I’ve just recalled, stopped then. That first Christmas after Dad moved away found us all so heavy hearted. No one felt much like celebrating.
Nothing, not even a cold, vacant house, can stop me from going home for Christmas. My Mom escapes our homeplace each year to visit one of my siblings, so the house is definitely cold, dark and empty. But I visit it anyway. I can’t stay away from the center of so many joyous memories. Many of the gifts I received at those Christmases are torn, faded or broken. But my memories are as fresh and new as the day they were made!
So, you can mark it down. I’ll be home for Christmas, as the song says, if only in my dreams.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas,