It’s been a long time since Christmas seemed like a magical day, wherein my fondest dreams might, just might come true. To a very real extent the magic ended for me with the passing of my dad when I was 7—a tragic event that occurred on January 3, 1962. I don’t remember much from that particular Christmas, our last one as a whole family.
I don’t recall the next one particularly well, either. I imagine it would have been very hard for all of us but especially my mother, who’d lost her soul mate, a loss from which she never fully recovered.
When I think back to childhood Christmases, it’s to recall a montage, as if in fact there’d only ever been one. I remember the breakfast on Christmas morning, because it was one of the few times in the year we had bacon on our breakfast table, along with both orange juice and grape juice. I could have a small glass of each! The tradition of the Christmas morning feast is one we observed with our own children and continued on with until just fairly recently. Our breakfast tomorrow morning is likely to be a very simple one.
Looking back to those very early years, I believe what made it all so special wasn’t only that gastronomical bounty itself, but the unusual circumstance of our enjoying it together, as a family. Oh, we always had supper as a family, even when my mother, an RN, was on the three to eleven shift at the hospital. My dad worked days, so he would be home when she was not. He cooked, and cleaned, and so we had family around the supper table every night.
But we never sat down as a family to have breakfast except on Christmas Day.
I also remember Christmas as being a time for visiting with family. My parents observed the tradition of dropping in on their nieces and nephews on the day after Christmas, and always visiting extended family where there were children. They’d usually have a gift of some sort for the kids—nothing extravagant, of course. But truly, in those days a small gift—either a toy, or perhaps a small basket filled with cookies and fruit or chocolate—could be had without spending a large sum. My parents saved their coins all year, and used that money at Christmas for extras such as our Boxing Day gifts.
Another cherished memory for me is going to the midnight Eucharist at our church (Anglican/Episcopalian). It was the church we attended all through my childhood, the same one my husband and I were married in, and the one we brought our children to as a young family before moving away to a different town. But at Christmas, the service that began at 11 pm on Christmas Eve was pure pageantry– complete with an old, rich sounding pipe organ, and all the trimmings of the High Anglican service—candles, robes, and a processional. The interior of the small building was old, the pews and hassocks a lustrous dark wood that the caretaker would polish to a high gloss. Years after my parents were both gone from this earth, sitting in that church brought them back to me, as I took in the sounds and scents of the place, along with the familiar, comfortable words of a liturgy which never changed.
It is also at this time of year that I feel the loss of family and friends most keenly. It seems to be unavoidable, that sense of something missing. There are always moments when I think back to having my house full, with all my chicks in attendance. The holiday season really is a double edged sword: for those who have, be it material goods or loved ones, it can be joyous indeed. For those in want, it can pinch and sting like nothing else on this earth.
Memories are made, one day at a time, and they are all made the same way, be they happy memories or sad ones.
My beloved and I wish you all the happiest of memories to be made tonight, tomorrow, and throughout the whole New Year.