Friday, December 22, 2017

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Today I've been thinking about Christmases from my childhood and some of my most bittersweet experiences.

One Christmas eve my family (my parents and my younger sister, Phyllis) had gone to Garnett to visit my Aunt Aura Lee and Uncle Nappy. They had one child--our beloved Cousin Rosemary. She was the youngest of us three.

Roads were miserable in those days and as luck would have it we got snowed in. What normally would have been a treat--spending all night with the Galloways--was a miserable experience for me. I didn't sleep well.

For of course Santa Claus would by-pass us. When he found we were not at home sleeping in our beds, a whole year of being good would go to waste. Phiz and I had redoubled our efforts when it came close to Christmas.

Finally Christmas morning came and when we awoke Santa had showered gifts on Cousin Rosemary. She was an only child and Phiz and I thought such largess was really uncalled for. She was not that good! Honestly, the things we could tell Santa. If we were inclined to snitch, which we were not.

The snow was over and we were able to drive home. My heart pounded the closer we came to our farm. We dashed into the house and crest-fallen realized that the worst had happened. Santa had indeed by-passed us.

Then my father found a note. We gathered around while he read it. Santa explained that he was worried about the safety of our presents since the house was cold and dark. He wished us a merry Christmas and urged us to check the woodshed because he certainly hadn't forgotten us. Daddy immediately led us out to the woodshed and much to our joy there were two identical precious dolls, each in their own high chairs.

Our joy was unbounded. Especially since our good behavior had not gone unnoticed. My faith in Santa and the goodness of the Universe was restored.

Until it wasn't.

Lone Elm was a very small community. Grades 1-3 were in the same room. As Christmas approached the next year there was a vicious rumor afloat that there was no Santa Claus. It was really just our parents. I think it was started by the truly offensive big kids in the third grade.

It finally made sense to me. I simply could not understand why Santa treated one miserably poor family so cruelly when they were good as gold. They got gifts like tooth paste and a pair of socks. The despicable daughters in another family who were not good were lavished with all kinds of treats. It was nearly intolerable when school resumed after Christmas to hear them tell of all they had found under their tree.

But seared on my memory was the shocked sobbing of one of the daughters in the poor family when she realized if Santa was truly her own parents there was no hope. They were already doing the best they good.

For me, understanding the tragedy of loss of hope, and my initiation into complexity was one of the most important lessons of childhood.

I think of that, the weeks when our church helps host homeless families. I was shocked when one of the fathers had three jobs, but housing was still beyond his reach.

Churches redouble their efforts during the Christmas season to let families know that someone cares. May Christmas always be a time of generosity when communities give food and special presents to struggling families.

And give the gift of hope to those who need it most!

Merry Christmas from Charlotte Hinger.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

Merry Christmas, Charlotte. Loved your post and shared it. Thanks!

Donis Casey said...

Such a beautiful post, Charlotte.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Thanks Donis and Irene. So many Christmas memories! So many shared with my sister who died at 54 from Lung cancer. She would be so proud of her adult children and her grandchildren!

Rick Blechta said...

That's a really sensitive and thought-provoking post. Thanks, Charlotte and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Ann Parker said...

The bitter and the sweet of the holiday season... I find the older I get, the more "varied" the memories.
Here's wishing a good (or at least "better") year for all!