Here we are, five days till Christmas, and it feels like time has just flown by. I can remember sitting at work on December 1st thinking, “wow, twenty-four days till Christmas. It will be forever before we get there.” And now, here we are, twenty-one days later. The mind boggles. (I have a conspiracy theory that time is actually speeding up and it’s not just our perception of it. Why, I couldn’t tell you. But it’s real.)
Last night, my accountability group was discussing people we’ve lost, and how it’s been affecting our holidays. And it made me think back to my childhood. And this morning on the bus, I tried remembering my grandparents’ old house.
Because when I think of Christmas, I am always hurtled through time to when we had Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. It was a small, two-bedroom house with a basement, a dining room, and a small kitchen. My grandparents had a beautiful tree with these antique ornaments on it (some of which grace our tree now) and a Santa on a sleigh that actually spun around the tree. It was neat. There was always mistletoe hanging from Grandma’s kitchen doorway. And, of course, there were other decorations as well. But that tree sticks in my mind.
So we’d all go to Grandma’s for Christmas Eve — my aunt, my uncle, my cousins, and of course, the four of us — my dad, my mom, my sister, and me. Usually, they’d be someone there who didn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas — I can remember several people over the years that my family “adopted.” We’d have hors d’oeuvres — cheese and crackers and bacon-wrapped tater tots. Soooo good. And then we’d open stocking stuffers.
I talked about them before, I think. They used to be gag gifts, but then evolved into cheap but useful things for each person. My own family carried on the tradition for many years. Unfortunately, we kind of fell out of it, mostly due to the fact that we were scattered on Christmas Eve — I’d be with my ex-husband, or we’d be working, or my dad would be working. And nowadays, money’s been tight, so we’d rather spend it on actual gifts. I would love to bring it back, though. I really miss it.
So, I think about Grandma’s house (and how weird it looks, after my grandpa sold it and the owners painted it different colors) and all the things we used to do, and I feel nostalgic and a little bit sad. Don’t get me wrong — I love our Christmases now. We have new traditions, and now I have my in-laws too, and it’s been great. But there’s just something about the simplicity and wonderment of being a kid and just…loving Christmas. Being with the whole family and honoring our traditions.
Grandpa passed away five years ago at age ninety-seven. Prior to this, he’d spend either Christmas or Christmas Eve with us. And I think Grandma’s absence has always been felt. Sure, we’ve made some great memories, and I am grateful for the time I had with Gramps, but Grandma was the glue that held us all together. Without her, we went our separate ways. Things have not been the same since, and that makes me sad, too.
But we all have to grow up. In growing up, we change. Our focus changes. We get married or engaged, and some have children even (I am not one of them). Our attitude changes. And our wishes change.
This year, I wish for everyone I love to be healthy and happy. I wish for peace for those suffering. I wish for a companion for all, so no one is left alone. I wish for warmth and love and happy memories. But most of all, I wish for everyone to take a moment this holiday season and commit it to memory. Because things do change, and the memory might be all you have.
Cherish the people you have with you, your family and friends. Lives are fleeting. My grandma passed away when I was ten. I barely knew her — at least not in the way an adult would. There are so many things I wish I could tell her, or talk to her about. I do believe she’s with us in some form, but it’s not the same as having her with us, alive and well and shining her light as she once did. And Gramps, he’s gone, too, and I never could imagine him not being around. I miss him, too. I miss his war stories. His hugs. He was always there, you know? Five years seems a lifetime ago, and it also seems like just a moment ago.
So, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and souviens-toi d’aimer (French for “remember to love,” something I put on my graduation pictures when I handed them out. It seemed like the right thing to write.) Because without love, where would we be?
Love is the greatest gift of all.