Friday, December 16, 2011

Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas is a bittersweet time. I cling to traditions I should probably abandon. The number of people sending Christmas cards declines every year. Yet I can’t bear to break connections with old friends even long after they have moved out my life except in memory. I still hear from the child of my mother’s best friend in Lone Elm. Ironically, we didn’t know each other that well. I think she was several grades behind me, yet obviously neither of us is willing to stop the cards, in honor of our mother’s friendship.
I have some old tree ornaments that are tarnished beyond redemption, and some old walnuts I painted gold and hung the first year Don and I were married. They were followed by other homemade concoctions. And the crown jewel of our lifetime of Christmas memories is Old Sparkly.

One joyful year when all the kids and grandkids were doing especially well, the truckline was thriving, and we were all in relatively good health the whole family came back to Hoxie. It was the kind of Christmas that inspire movies. Don splurged on an elaborate fiber optic Christmas tree and told me the local hardware store would soon be delivering it because it was very large. This sounded ominous. I asked him how much it cost. He said “I don’t know, but it’s one big sparkly son-of-a-bitch.”

We watched Old Sparkly in awe as the colors slowly shifted from gold to green and red. We knew it was classless and more than a little tacky. But we didn’t care. Don loved it and his enthusiasm was contagious.

 It’s too much work to assemble now, and doesn’t look right in my apartment, but I can’t give it up. And Old Sparkly doesn’t give the ghost either. It fires up every year

There’s an illusionary aspect to Christmas. In November, I imagine that everything will be perfect. Cards sent on time, and presents wrapped and under the tree. Reality usually intrudes in not-so-perfect ways. My youngest daughter broke her wrist a week ago, I’m coping with a root canal gone bad. Yet there is something still magical about the season. There’s an assumption that happiness will happen, despite the set-backs.

My husband, my parents, my brother, and my sister have passed on now. But I’m struck by how many lovely memories I have of years gone by. I’m grateful for so many things. Although my mystery series often deals with the dark side of families, I’m extremely lucky to have three daughters and sons-in-laws who love them, and six wonderful grandchildren. The three sisters are very close and the kids have enjoyed the special relationships cousins have.

Bouyed by the loving foundation provided by my childhood, my marriage, and my family. I’ve moved on to a new life and a new town.

My heart goes out to those who have not been so fortunate. My prayers are with everyone this season that they will somehow, somewhere, find the peace of Christmas regardless of religion.

Bless you all—and may your pens be golden in the year to come.


Donis Casey said...

Lone Elm? Kansas? Not Lone Elm, Arkansas, surely, from whence hails my mother's family. Otherwise, we may be related.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

Loved this post, Charlotte. I imagine just the memory of Old Sparkly is enough in your new life. But why not use Old Sparkly in a book sometime? I think that aluminum tree deserves to live on!

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