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Monday, December 17, 2012

Within A Child's Eyes

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.

Me & Santa
I recall the rousing smell of new toys, while taking my turn with a well-groomed department store Santa, dressed in kingly red, ho-ho-hoing from his velvety throne, his all seeing eyes measuring my earnestness, peeking into my soul, exposing my coal-worthy deeds in spite of my new coat and shiny Maryjanes.

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.

My husband Mike & Santa
I want to stroll those easy streets once again, mingling with familiar strangers all high on the same holiday cheer. But, I mustn’t fool myself, for even back then evil had a face—clean shaven and reeking of Old Spice. I knew that face. And as I sat on Santa’s knee in front of Ma, I held back my request that Santa would make that face go away, and asked instead for a doll that could cry “mama”.

Life is indeed a spectral journey, where shadows dance like opaque fairies amidst the twinkling lights of our festivities. These dark stalkers have always been there. They sought to murder the Christ Child, who was whisked away into exile, safe from the blade of Herod’s plan. But this type of evil can never truly win, because the loveless womb from which it crawled has seeded it with barren fear, leaving it no place to go beyond the grave.

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.


Marie Loerzel said...

Your last sentence is especially poigniant in light of recent tragedies!

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Beautiful post, Leah. I just asked my husband last night if he ever misses the magic the holidays used to have for us when we were younger. But, I guess, maybe there were only a scant few that our minds chose to cling to, while all around us, the world still spun in its cosmic blend of happiness and pathos.

Sarah said...

absolutely beautiful. love the violin. and the pictures.

SK Delph said...

Besides all the amazing usual comments with accolades...just ditto those from posts past Leah! ...I was especially taken by the photo of you and Santa. I've been looking at a lot of young children photo's since the tragedy in Newtown and so naturally must be brought to compare. There was something very poignant about the youth of innocence not easily expressed. On the other hand Blabby has the look of Chuckie...dear lord. Is that how they made those things back then? I never could handle dolls. I was more the soft cuddly stuffed animal type, lol. Our personal losses and feelings I know you understand and I don't need to mention. Thanks for a walk into Christmas past. New England is a place close to my heart and I've been quite under the weather with the tragedy of it all... SK

Dangerous Linda said...

Dear Leah,

I love you so. I want to wrap my arms around you and protect you from anymore pain, at least for a little while. I wish I had angel's wings which would work so much better...XOXOXOXOXOX

PS The photo with you and Santa is so dear I'm inspired to search out one of my own!

Leah Griffith said...

Yes Marie it is. This entire post was written in the light of recent events. Merry Christmas sweet lady. Have a fabulous holiday!

Leah Griffith said...

It seems the ghost of Christmas past has paid you a visit too Karen. Sometimes we want to find a safe place to go so we look behind us, as it is the only path we're familiar with. But I like to believe that the now is just as it should be and tomorrow will hold some magic of its own. We may not understand all things but we must navigate through them with faith and courage, and a heart full of hope.
Merry Christmas Karen, and thank you for that beautiful e-card. You are some clever little elf!! Big hugs!

Leah Griffith said...

Sarah, I wish you lived nearby so we could share all those things that cling to our hearts. You're an old soul with so much love to share. Sending big hugs to you and Ember. I wish I were close enough to pinch her cute little cheeks. <3 xoxoxoxo <3

Leah Griffith said...

S.K, I was not too sure about sitting on his lap and kept my eyes pinned to mommy. It was like sitting on God's lap. Yes, the children of the 50's had a certain Rockwellian quality to them. Golly gee wiz;) I needed to revisit those times in order to put things into perspective. And now I see that children are magical little souls having left the "other side" not so long ago. I believe they carry divine qualities with them and then they eventually grow up and have to learn them all over again. LOL!
Blabby was my baby and still is. She is a bit creepy but I still love her. She reminds me of myself when I was little...a rough little shit with a big heart. Merry Christmas S.K. and thank you so much for your loving comment. Big hugs coming your way!!

Leah Griffith said...

Linda Lee, I love you too sister. I'm okay, I just need to let the pain flow through me and do its work.
Please please please dig out a photo of you with Mr. S.!!! I posted mine as my profile pic and I'm trying to get people to do the same. We need a boost!

stephen Hayes said...

Baby Blabby looks kinda scary!

Leah Griffith said...

LOL! Stephen! I pour my heart out and you comment on Blabby. I don't know how I slept with her for all those years without worrying that she might come alive and stab me;) That was way before Chucky's days. I was still pure of mind, although I never could tollerate clowns. LOL!
Happy Holidays Mr. Hayes;)

Lazy Pineapple said...

Your post is so touching, definitely reminds me of simpler times when everything was not so complicated and festivals were just to be enjoyed as the victory of good over evil.

Though I know about Christmas traditions, I have never experienced them first hand where I live. Your post is so apt for the festival of Diwali which we celebrate in India.

Martha Jane Orlando said...

"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."
Present times are bittersweet, indeed. Thank you, Leah, for reminding us all of the true gift of Christmas, and that we can still experience its joy in the midst of sorrow.
Blessings, my friend!

Sandra Tyler said...

I feel the same way. Always trying to recreate the magic of my childhood christmases for my boys. but kids grow up so much faster now and their doubts about Santa arise earlier. And how do you beat computer games?

Unknown said...

MMkay for one Mike was the cutest little boy, aww...for 2 my mother STILL mkaes those chains and styrofoam ball ornaments, now I know where she got that from, and for 3 it IS crazy how Christmas spirit works isn't??? You just reminded me to write to Jeremiah and the girls...another great post Auntie!!

Cheryl said...

What a beautiful message. Yes, you are right. It's the hope that leads us out of the sadness. There is the chance for wonderful just around the corner.

That is a beautiful video. I am working on a post that I needs some music clips for. I may be reposting that. If I don't talk to you prior to Christmas. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Leah Griffith said...

Pineapple my dear, I will have to research your holiday of Diwali. It seems all cultures have their equivalent of Christmas, and childhood memories often seem sweeter and more sincere than the present moments.
I'd like to move beyond this belief of the past being sweeter and embrace the present with an open heart. I still have time ....
Sending thoughts of joy and love to you this holiday season!

Leah Griffith said...

Thank you Martha. It is a bittersweet season carrying with it all the baggage of life itself. Embracing Christmas is akin to embracing life.

Have a blessed holiday sweet sister <3

Leah Griffith said...

Sandra, children seem more sophisticated these days—their attention spans more limited, what with computers and video games. They are being fed an overload of information. It taxes my brain so I can't image what it does to their young brains.

Christmas's meaning remains the same throughout the generations, we are the ones who have changed. This needn't be a negative thing if balance is brought into the mix.

Merry Christmas Sandra. Sending blessing to you and your family.

JANU said...

Holidays and festivals can be stressful for some. Have a Merry Christmas doing what you want to do most.

Healing Morning said...

"This is where the magic lives—within the restorative power of love’s embrace." What appropriate and beautiful words, Leah. I think we all revisit childhood memories - I call them Comfort Memories - when life becomes too full of overwhelming factors. The soft, gentle haze of childhood softens some of the rough edges of present day. I plan to re-post a memory of my own in the next couple of days, because it is one that I cherish of personal time spent with my beautiful Mom.

I wrap you and your incredible, talented, beautiful self in enduring love, friendship, smiles and hugs during this holiday season, my darling girl. You are one of the blessings I will count, always.

Namaste', and love.

- Dawnie

Ms. Faustus said...

I sit and read this, a blessed thirty-two years of age and feeling mightily ignorant of what it means to have tragedy in one's life. I hone my empathy gently and diligently to let the universe know that I am aware, and grateful. Some days I wonder if I might have to dearly pay for my blessings later. My beau tells me that they are already paid for, earned and deserved. Sometimes I am successful at believing him.

Your words read like crackling embers in a fireplace, every sentence a tiny flame and sound headed in its own direction. They illuminate, and glow, and warm the heart. Happy holidays, my friend. Sending hugs.

Leah Griffith said...

Vanessa, I love that your mom still holds those traditions. It makes it seem that somehow those days of magic are still alive.

Mike brought that photo home last week from MA. He was adorable. It's sad to think that the homestead in Holden is being dismantled. Soon another family will live there. Our hub will be gone.

I'm glad you brought up Donna and the children. I've been meaning to phone her....
Merry Christmas beautiful lady and thank you so much for your comment <3 I love you!!!

Leah Griffith said...

Cheryl, hope is a most convincing leader. It has lead me out of the pits my entire life. Without hope, all is lost.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas. I can't wait to read your holiday post Cheryl.
Sending a really big hug your way!

Leah Griffith said...

Dawn, your words are like silk against the skin. Thank you for all your love and support. I really feel it.

I will be looking for that memory of yours. It amazes me how I have never met you in person yet I feel so connected to you and to many other people on line. It's a spirit thing;)

Wishing you light, laughter, and love, now and throughout the new year. You're an inspiration to many.

Leah Griffith said...

Chris, I feel the same way when I watch footage of hungry children, or places under the siege of war. I feel that I am so blessed that I will surely have to pay for all these blessings. But we do pay. We pay personal tolls as we cross our bridges and walk our highways. Each his own. Not to be compared but lovingly settled and satisfied, understanding the cost and embracing it.

I have been teetering lately. Putting one foot in front of the other has been an effort. But all of this beautiful mess is here to take me places I've never been. It is all worth it.

Sending hugs back my writerly friend. Wishing you happiness and love now and always.

Melissa Tandoc said...

It's so true how life could continue evolving and yet leave us with the same imprints...hmmm...I woke up one fine morning feeling like Scrooge LOL!

No, it doesn't have to be like that at all... I pray for your mother and all your loved ones. There's a saying that many souls go to heaven on Christmas day. I actually believe that.

I pray we could be simple like children...more forgiving...

Lots of love to you and Merry Christmas Leah :*

Chantel said...

I have a wall of black and white pictures in my dining room. College roomies, family, my boys...I have loved black and white photos forever, way before they somehow registered as "in." I believe the magic of them--how they seem even more "real" at times than their colored twins--lies in how our minds paint in the colors, chemicals just cannot compare. And so I believe that we paint our pasts...the holidays were brighter, the tree was bigger, the music lovlier--perhaps there is foregiveness in this? Coming out the tail end of a frenetic Christmas season, I do hope my boys paint over the frustrations and times I snapped at them. I pray they remember the glitter and glow....and not the burned bacon. :)

This was lovely to read.

(oh, and your birthday thoughts made me laugh aloud--mine is in a few weeks, I think I will bookmark this to read again then)

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