Blue Christmas

Last week we had a holiday potluck lunch at work.  People brought the usual assortment of fatty, salty and sweet treats, and the department sat around and ate together.  Some of the folks really don’t know each other all that well, and others really don’t like some of the 800px-Christmas_tree_bauble[1]others.  To get the conversation started, a well-meaning person said, “Let’s go around the table and tell what we’re doing for the holidays.”

This is a gambit loaded with pitfalls, and sure enough, they happened.  Not everybody has the perfect family, or a family, and many people don’t have anywhere to go.  One divorced woman was waiting on her infuriating sister to decide if she was hosting Christmas or not.  A single gay guy said he plans to sleep through it, since he will be singing in choirs or as a soloist (his side job) through Christmas Eve.  Our head of technology (a woman) sat at the table with tears sliding down her face.  She’s married, but they have always spent Christmas with her sister, who died a few months ago.

Christmas is a time of joy for many, of irritation for others, and of sadness for others still.  My father was always melancholy at Christmas because his mother died in December.  Mother would hiss at him, “George, cheer up, for the children!”

Perhaps the bluest Christmas I’ve ever had was the year after Daddy died.  Mother and I went through the motions, even traipsing out into the fields to cut down a cedar tree and dragging it back to the house to decorate.  It was too tall, and Uncle Floyd had to come over and cut the trunk shorter so we could get it in the living room.  We spent many a sad Christmas Day alone together after he died because Mother would not “intrude on someone else’s Christmas,” even though we were invited for dinner many times.

I learned my lesson from that.  If someone cares enough about me to invite me on a holiday, I’ll go.  If I can invite someone else who doesn’t want to be alone, I will.  And I admire the guy at work who just wants to sleep–sometimes you’ve had enough celebrating!  I’d like to thank the friends who give me a reason to celebrate Easter and Thanksgiving, and to thank my sister who makes Christmas happen each year.  And I’m grateful for the friends who help me celebrate throughout the year.

So, a happy Christmas to all, and let’s be sensitive to those who don’t have a picture-perfect holiday.  You may be showing kindness to an “angel, unawares.”


Holiday Prelude: Not Always Jolly

This time of year I miss my father even more than usual.  As we get closer to Christmas, I think of how it was always a difficult time for him.  He became very quiet and sad, depressed I guess we would say now.  His mother died in December, and he missed her as we got closer to Christmas.

I remember Mother saying to him, “You have to pick yourself up and do this for HER.  I won’t let you ruin HER Christmas.”  It took me a while to figure out that HER was me.

Daddy, to his credit, managed to pull himself together each year.  Mother and Daddy would argue about when to get the tree–he always wanted to wait until Christmas Eve, convinced it was a fire hazard, and Mother wanted it earlier so we could enjoy it.

I felt his cloud of depression beforehand, but we would go out into the fields and pick out a cedar tree to cut down for our Christmas tree.  Mother exhorted us to get one that didn’t have a fork in the top (a common flaw of cedar trees).  Daddy would cut it down, and we dragged it home, put it in a bucket of water in the garage or back yard, and let it soak up some water before taking it inside.

Nothing smells better than a fresh cut cedar tree.  the scent is sweeter and stronger than a pine tree.  And of course the trees we have now, cut in October in Michigan or Canada, coated in fireproofing spray and fake green, have no real smell to speak of.  A cedar tree smells like a wooden cedar chest, only green and alive.

Once we started decorating Daddy started to cheer up a bit.  I still have some of the strings of old lights we used, and the battered glass balls.  He did his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve–old southern tradition, because you didn’t have the money to shop until then (unless you were doing layaway at Montgomery Wards).

These days I have a fake tree, since I’m usually away at my sister’s house for a few days, and I don’t like to leave a live one to get dry.  But I usually get a live green wreath or table arrangement.  I need that smell of fresh greens to make the holidays real.

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