Remember? How exciting it was to anticipate the magical days to come. For me, Christmas was one of the big ones. Oh, the excitement! Of course we had to decorate a tree. That wasn’t my favorite part. I wanted all blue lights. No, Marsha, for the last time, we cannot have all blue lights! The reason I heard so often was that we had perfectly good lights already and didn’t need, couldn’t afford any more. Later I learned another truth: since my dad was in the U.S. Air Force and permanent press wasn’t a thing yet, my mom hated ironing those “&*$%@& Air Force blues.” If it was blue, Mom didn’t like it. Alas, blue was and is my favorite color. I was a minimalist and wanted only a classy touch of matching ornaments to go with the blue lights I couldn’t have, but (deep sigh here) we had to use a ton of the crazy assortment of ornaments collected over the years. Just when I thought the tree looked perfect despite the fact that the lights were multicolored and the ornaments didn’t all match, someone would ask, “Is that all you’re going to put on?”
Then there were gifts to buy or make, and the wrapping to do. Mom hated wrapping things, so it was usually my job. I got to wrap everybody’s but my own and I loved it. It helped that I was good at keeping secrets and never told my brothers and sister what was in all those packages. Later I found out that the boys were expert snoops and usually knew anyway. Even though I carefully chose the pretty paper, and then I went crazy with curling ribbon and put bows – you know how little girls love bows – on everything, they knew what was in those boxes. I guess they were good at keeping secrets too, because they never told me what I was getting.
What could be better than the decorating and the gifts? Cookies, of course!
I never had many friends. Baking was my best buddy. The kitchen was the place where I knew I was appreciated, and I loved Christmas cookies. Mom collected cookie cutters. There were so many to choose from! She usually washed the dishes – yes, back before we had a dishwasher – so I didn’t care how many I used, and use them I did. The more I made, the more I got to ice and add sprinkles to. So what if I let my cat sit on the table next to me while I worked? What’s a little cat hair going to hurt? Note: the cats I have now know better than to get on the counters or tables if I’m anywhere around. That could get them banished downstairs to the laundry room.
Ah, the memories. Now, we live in the present. My parents, brothers, and in-laws are gone. The kids are grown, have no kids of their own, and aren’t coming home. Do we need or want a Christmas tree? One year we decided not to have one. It was much less work, but seemed a little bleak. This year I’m thinking about decorating the orange tree I’m growing until my daughter can have it in her own apartment. It’s about 6′ tall, a good size for a Christmas tree. On the other hand, maybe I’d rather donate a tree to someone who really wants one and can’t afford it. I could still decorate the orange tree.
They live in tiny NY apartments and don’t want to accumulate “stuff.” My husband and I have pretty much everything we need, and a whole lot that we don’t need. We’re more focused in downsizing than on receiving gifts. Maybe a donation run to the thrift store is in order. There aren’t many gifts to wrap. We’d rather send a gift to the impoverished child we sponsor, or buy livestock for families we’ve never met and never will meet.
Cookies? Maybe I’ll do just one kind, and definitely not a triple recipe like I used to do. Wait! Just yesterday my doctor suggested I lose some weight. Cookies probably aren’t helpful in a weight loss plan even though lunch was a banana and plain yogurt smoothie with a healthy dose of fresh ginger thrown in. Well, maybe just a few cookies. I suppose I could go around and give them to homeless people, but everybody wants to feed them at Christmas time. They need those cookies and a real meal more at other times when they’re cold and forgotten.
Is Christmas still magic for me? I don’t know. When I see the sparkle in a child’s eyes, yes. When I read the Christmas story and sing Christmas carols, yes it’s magical. Maybe it’s time to look for a different magic. What’s the magic in older people’s
stories? Maybe I need to seek the sparkle in eyes that are old, wrinkled, dim, and forgotten. I bet there’s magic there just waiting to be shared.