I hate to admit it, but I’m not feeling very jovial this year, but rather a bit nostalgic about Christmas. I find myself conjuring familiar details from Yule’s gone by, like how the snow felt crunching under my boots as Ma led us along the crowded sidewalks of downtown Worcester, peering into store windows and judging their Christmas displays. One display in particular concerned me. It was a bare-bottom boy lying across his mother’s lap as she spanked him with her big mechanical hand, his red face twisted into an endless squall—forever humiliated. He would certainly be the recipient of a heavy heaping of coal, inspiring a rush of fear that my own misdeeds might be exposed.
Yes nostalgic. The carols of yesterday seem to be carrying bygone Christmases into my present, revisiting the times when poverty nipped every nickel from Ma’s thin purse, and S&H green stamps were the currency of the season. The days of small joys tucked within tough times like diamonds hidden within the folds of an old burlap blanket. I hadn’t yet learned how to be discontented with life, accepting my mother’s world as the way everyone lived, her reassuring words pointing out the praiseworthiness of life, guarding our spirits from hunger and want. Spending contented hours snipping paper chains to drape across our bare walls—turning Styrofoam balls into a galaxy of jeweled ornaments to hang on our tree.
I guess I find myself looking backwards to simpler times because the present seems so complicated—so transitional—so sad. I want to look back to the Rockwellian days, when the sparkle of wonder within a child’s eyes was revered, as was the sanctity of childhood.
If Christmas has taught me anything over my lifetime, it is this: that life takes no break for the holidays. That Christmas is a microcosm of life, a compact version brought into acute focus under the brilliant lights of the season, causing our tears to flow faster and our joys to sing louder. I lost my mother during the holidays of 1998, and five loved ones already this year, including my dear mother-in-law just last week; I’m reeling with the sting of loss, yet I continue to sing the sweet praises of life, inspired by a divine love which expands the human heart, infusing it with the silvery light of hope. This is where the magic lives—within the restorative power of love’s embrace. This, my dear friends, is the spirit of Christmas…our greatest gift to one another.
Whether in mourning or mirthful, let us share this most precious gift of love with those around us, for in doing so we confound evil plans and light a torch in the most desolate of places. Merry Christmas fellow citizens, may our deeds mark the day as good, and compassionate wisdom be our earthly legacy.