I am one of those people for whom Christmas wears a veil of sadness; while there are bright lights and music and excited plans everywhere (though God knows not so much this strange, sad year), I celebrate the Solstice with as much peace and beauty and sacredness as I am able.
The Light returns...and December 26th always comes.
Modern Christmas music...meaning, in most cases, anything after 1900...makes me cry. Like all of us for whom Christmas is more a time of sadness than excitement, I have my reasons. I try not to inflict them on others. I regret that my beloved Joseph has to live with it, with me and my need to hibernate, and bless the man for doing all he can to make it easier for me.
I miss the celebrations we used to have at Fort Osage National Historic Site, sharing simple, handmade gifts, decorating with pineapples, a traditional symbol of hospitality, live evergreens and candles and no glitz. We sang 18th C. (and earlier) songs. We made our feast of foods that might have been available 250 years ago, and it was beautiful. And it didn't trigger my memories.
But I promised a slightly more current Christmas story, didn't I?
Many years ago, when my first husband, Harris, and I lived in a small bungalow in the city, he gave me the perfect present. Other years, Christmas had been a bit crazy, splitting our time between his mother in southern Kansas, and my dad and his new family in Independence. Christmas Eve one place, Christmas Day in the other, no matter what the weather. We were torn, as most families in that situation can be, and exhausted by the demands and expectations.
Bless Harris, he didn't drive, and for some reason he always wanted to do his shopping on Christmas Eve...so that meant me sitting in the car somewhere for hours while he braved the crowds, looking for the Perfect Gift.
One year I'd said I really needed a muffler...I meant a long, warm scarf, but he remembered images of women with hands tucked inside a fur muff, and he wouldn't be satisfied until he had searched every store in downtown KC. (Needless to say, fruitlessly! Muffs went out 100 years ago or so...)
But this year, his mother was gone and seeing my dad was less fraught. We'd bought a pretty little bungalow in the Brookside area, and had room for a tree--he'd had a lousy childhood and I always tried hard to give him the best Christmas possible, with home made cookies, fruitcake, decorations, and all the traditional trappings. He hadn't mentioned braving the crowds on Christmas Eve, and I was very grateful--that would have been gift enough!
An old friend who knew what he'd gotten for me that year took me aside and said "get your face ready for Christmas morning...you're going to be really disappointed." And I wondered what on earth...?
But Christmas morning came, and he shyly handed me a heavy box, messily wrapped...and when I tore it open there was no need at all to "ready my face."
He had bought me an electric typewriter, a beauty of a machine. He knew I wanted to be a writer, after years of workig for others in stressful jobs--and he helped make that dream possible.
He knew me. And he gave me love and hope and the future I grew into.
Remembering this story always makes me smile, when I think of all the jokes about husbands buying their wives a new frying pan or blender or whatever, instead of the lingerie or perfume or God knows what they "should" be buying. And how angry the wives are fully expected to be.
Ladies, I wish you all an electric typewriter, and love.