My love of the Christmas season is tied up in my memories of childhood—both my own, and that of my children. This love has been tempered through the years I have lived, and has grown and evolved not only from happy experiences, but sad ones as well.
As much as this time of year can be joyous, it also has the potential for being a difficult season, emotionally, for many to cope with. Those who are out of work, or who’ve just returned to work and still haven’t caught up on their financial situations, feel the pressure because they can’t provide those extras for their families, the way they want to. I know, because we’ve been there, many times.
Those missing loved ones feel that loss even more keenly at Christmas. I think it’s because this time of year, for those of us who celebrate it, is drenched in tradition. As you light that special candle, as you prepare that special meal, or as you head out to choose that perfect evergreen, you can’t help but recall the past, and the times you spent with that one who is no longer here.
Losses and crises suffered now seem somehow more tragic than if they happen, say, in the middle of March, or near the end of September. Christmas is a time for families, and so, when things impact the family at this time of year it seems more.
Today is an interesting day, historically for the Ashbury family. On this date in 1989, we had a house fire – our second, by the way – and while no one was hurt, we did suffer property loss, and financial loss, as we were, at the time, uninsured.
On this day in 2002, I had been transported from one hospital here to one in another city to undergo angioplasty, which, mid procedure turned into an emergency requiring triple by-pass, when the artery being given the stint, tore.
Through all of the disasters and near disasters we, like many of you, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. What else can you do? But no matter if you do just keep on keeping on, those incidents add shape and substance to the season.
As I have gotten older, I’ve come to understand that if life is to be lived to its fullest, then we have to do more than just endure hardships and tough times. We have to make them mean something.
I got out of the hospital on December 24, 2002. I came home to a house that was basically tidy, but there was no tree, and not much food in the cupboard. Y’all know I love my husband, and he is a man with many fine qualities. But he does not cook—no, he will not cook. So that Christmas Eve I did send him out to grab a bit of Chinese food at one of the take-out restaurants in town. And then I phoned my brother, who lives in this same town, and who does cook, and because I was a little grumpy 7 days post op, told him, flat out, he needed to bring us Christmas dinner the next day.
This he did with great grace and style—even including a pickle tray.
That was the first of two times in our lives we ‘celebrated’ Christmas without a Christmas tree. The second, of course, was the first Christmas without our son.
The enduring image I have of Christmas morning with my children, is them, in their pajamas sitting on the stairs, waiting for permission to come down to see the tree and the gifts awaiting them. They vibrated with excitement. After only two hours sleep, Mr. Ashbury and I needed our coffee first. We had to have those first few sips, because we needed to be alert enough so that we could enjoy their discoveries.
Because for us, their joy and pleasure was what Christmas was all about.
Next Wednesday is Christmas Day, and I will not be posting Wednesday’s Words. Instead, I will be snuggled down with Mr. Ashbury, and then preparing the dinner for 10/15ths of my family.
May you enjoy love and laughter, and the magic that is Christmas next Wednesday, and in all the days yet to come.