The ‘ghosts of Christmases Past’

DISCLAIMER: This is long. The memories came tumbling out. I apologize in advance.

When I saw this writing challenge on WordPress so many things went through my head. Some of my fondest memories and some of my very worst, all happened at Christmas. Are they “ghosts” or are they just moments in time that helped shape me into who I am today?

I can’t really call these memories ghosts. They don’t haunt me, but they do remain in the back crevices of my mind, returning every now and then to remind me that the holidays are about remembering the things that matter, putting aside the things that don’t and finding it within myself to not confuse the two. The latter is a constant battle with me.

I can take a look within myself and attribute so much about me to some of my “ghosts of Christmases past.”

1976: Growing up, we always had presents from Santa. Some years more than others. In fact, some years almost none.   I was a product of a single-parent family for most of my childhood. Money was often scarce, but my mom always made sure Santa made a stop at our house. My children, now almost 20 and almost 11 still get Santa gifts.

I do remember one Christmas in particular that my mother had a new job and apparently a larger paycheck. I’ve heard her talk about this too in her latter years. It was the first time she was really able to go overboard with the gifts under the tree. I remember it like it was yesterday. This year there were quite a few wrapped gifts under the tree in the days leading up to Christmas. In fact, I think this is the year she chose not to put name tags on the gifts to keep us guessing. She also kept herself guessing as on Christmas morning she couldn’t remember which gift belonged to which daughter. There were so many. Our tiny living room literally looked like Santa’s bag exploded under our tree. My sister and I were so excited.

I was just young enough to still want a baby doll, but old enough to know this was probably my last year to get one. I got a “Baby Come Back.” She was beautiful. She had a hard plastic body and crawled all on her own.  That was the year I also got a Jaws game and a blue typewriter. I loved that typewriter encased in blue plastic. I’m sure my “career” began on that manual beast. I wish I still had it.

1978: Christmases weren’t all about the gifts, but this was the year of my multi-colored RABBIT coat and my new “Grease” album! (Still one of my very favorite movies of all time!) That’s all I am going to say about that. I had arrived.

I don’t have the coat, but I do still have that album in a box somewhere. It was just a few years ago some girlfriends and I took our daughters to see a live community theatre version of “Grease.” We had so much fun singing (quite loudly and I’m sure out of tune) to every song in that production. My daughter didn’t quite appreciate it as much as I did. But, I am sure that will be a memory she will someday look back on as fondly as I do that rabbit coat and that old album. (My daughter once told us she knew what an album was – “a large, old timey CD.”)

1990: Jumping ahead … I got engaged on Christmas Eve to a very big, red-headed Teddy bear. He was well-liked and loved by everyone who knew him and he wanted me to be his wife.

1993: Jumping ahead even more … I sat on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Ewriting little notes in a journal and nervously playing with a tiny, plastic nativity set designed for a child. I was trying to pass the time as I waited on the arrival of a very overdue bundle of joy. I was pregnant. I was fat. I was tired.

Once that beautiful baby girl made her appearance in January 2004 I forgot all that. She forever changed me. At that very moment I knew my purpose in life was to watch over her, protect her and help her grow up to be a beautiful young woman.

On that Christmas Day before her birth, I couldn’t wait to see her and to hold her and to watch as she clutched that tiny, plastic Baby Jesus in her own hand. She played with that nativity for years. I still have it tucked away in a box waiting for my first grandchild some day in the far away future.

1996: More than any other Christmas Eve, I will never forget this one. It tested every ounce of strength I had to survive and forced me to hold on to the belief I had always been taught that God would not give you more than you can handle. He came close. I was working that day. I was news editor of a small-town newspaper so there was no Christmas Eve off. I was young then, but had already developed my panic-driven approach to Christmas. I was busy. I wanted to be off work so that I could get to a family gathering that evening. The result was stress over lack of time. To this day I regret that. The last time I saw my husband, he was sitting in his truck staring through the newspaper office door, probably upset over my stress level that morning and a disagreement we had just had.

Later, I heard the dispatcher over the police scanner calling for Life Flight to be sent to the scene of an accident. I sent a reporter out. Just a few moments later a DPS officer walked into my office holding my beautiful daughter. God spared her. She was not hurt. He kept her here for me. The rest doesn’t need to be said. To this day, that was my worst nightmare.

1998: I am remarried. To the opinion of many it was too soon. But for me, it was what I needed. I had met another man who stepped into my life, helped me pick up the pieces and took over caring for my young daughter. He has always treated her like his own. To her, he is dad. We started our own Christmas traditions that year including a new themed tree (which has morphed into several themed trees today). To this day, he makes sure we are all home together as soon as possible on Christmas Eve.

With him, I had another child who made our family complete.  I had a wonderful boy and spent another Christmas waiting on him, as he was also born in January.

2013: I’ve skipped over many Christmas memories – lots of fun times, lots of baking, lots of gifting … but this is long enough. As I sit here finishing this, I am trying very hard to focus on what all this has taught me. My house isn’t clean. I didn’t decorate as much as I would like. There is baking yet to be done. I know I will never be Martha Stewart.

But I do promise this to myself: I will sit down tonight. I will forget about the dirt on my floors and the fourth tree that I never put up. I will just breathe and enjoy the smell of cupcakes coming from my oven and the happy chatter of my family as we watch a holiday movie.  It’s these times that are important, not the picture perfect holiday — wait I can’t say that.  This is perfect.

Merry Christmas.

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