Posted in Faith, Family

The Reason I Cried on Christmas

We left Christmas day, loaded up the family and the dogs and drove to my mom’s house, 6 hours away.

I wanted to have Christmas morning at home, open the presents with just the few of us, then leave.  But after opening presents, we had to take down the tree, because I didn’t want to come home to a dry, crusty tree with needles littering the floor.  And then I needed to clean out the fridge, because I didn’t want to come home two weeks later to green, fuzzy mac and cheese.   Because obviously, the mac and cheese has been in the fridge for two weeks already.

Of course, then I wanted to get all the laundry done because I didn’t want to come home with suitcases full of dirty clothes to add to Mount Washalot that has erected itself in my laundry room.

We all know when you’ve been away from your house for nearly two weeks, what you want to come home to is not laundry, your dead Christmas tree, or month old leftovers, but what you want to come home to is your bed and your shower.  I was being proactive, longing for the day I would return before I ever left.

After arriving at my mom’s house, we opened presents.  Now there are families who have organized Christmas present opening, and then there are families who don’t.  I would belong to the latter.  Paper is flying, kids are screaming, you practically need ear plugs for all the shouting and people talking at once.  It is sheer chaos.  Someone inevitably opens someone else’s underwear and looks quizzically at it until someone shouts out “that belongs to uncle herbert” or something like it.  Also there is usually a lone, leftover present buried under the wrappings that is discovered during clean up, which the recipient grabs with glee.

I got towels.  Which is not the reason I cried on Christmas.

The reason I cried on Christmas is because tucked inside the box with the towels was an envelope addressed to me, written in my dad’s printed hand,  with my mom’s address (I haven’t lived there in more than 20 years).  No matter how many years he’s been gone, I doubt I’ll ever forget his handwriting.   I held the card and studied it curiously, much like the kid with someone else’s underwear in hand.  The room shouted and carried on around me, but I was alone with this envelope.

I turned it over.  My uncle, my dad’s only brother, had written on the back.  He had found it and decided to send it on to me.  You see, my parents separated when I was about 12 years old, and my dad moved to Oklahoma.  It was still the age of letter writing so it wasn’t uncommon to receive his cards and letters, usually with a little cash tucked inside.  While we were growing up, we talked on the phone every Sunday after church.  That’s when he knew he could reach my sister and I together, along with the rest of the family, because we all met together at my grandmother’s house,( the very house I sit in while typing this), for Sunday dinner that always, without fail, consisted of roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and rolls.

I held the card in both of my hands and with a bit of a nervous nature I opened it carefully, trying not to tear off any of the writing, the post mark, or any part of the envelope.  It had instantly become precious to me.  A message from my dad, nearly three years after he died.

Inside was a card.  A Valentine’s card for a little girl.   With hearts, a rainbow, and a teddy bear on the front.  I didn’t bother reading the message inside the card, but instead my eyes fell to the blue ink underneath the commercial greeting, where my dad had written, “I love and miss you daily—- DAD”

And that’s why I cried on Christmas.

Tears began to fall uncontrollably.  You see, I expected to receive the towels.  (My mom’s been harping on me for years about my towels.)  I expected the sweater, the oil and vinegar bottle, all the things I had told people I wanted.  But this card, this was an unexpected surprise.  A Valentine’s Day card on Christmas Day.

And the message he gave me, although he meant it years ago and it was intended to be read in the past, was more than fitting for the present.  Because now, our situation has changed and he’s the one who is loved and missed daily.

I wiped my tears away quickly with the palm of my hand to no avail.  More fell just as swiftly as I wiped.  I then showed the card to my family.  I don’t think any of them understood, until I face timed my sister.

She got it.  She understood.

My dad was with me for Christmas this year.

It was the best gift I have ever received.

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Uncle Leon, Thank you so much for sending it on.

Posted in Family

Chopping Down the Tree

I’ve talked about it before, about this imaginary world inside my head.  Fantopia, it’s called.  It’s a fantasy utopia where my life is perfect.  It’s a nice place, until I try to merge Fantopia with Reality, then it’s just depressing.

Case in point:  Since we moved to the mountains, we thought it would be a fun, new family tradition to go to the forest and cut down a Christmas tree.  Can’t you picture it?  The fun, the family, the forest.  Just us and an axe and a small pine tree.

I have looked forward to this for a few months.  In Fantopia, where everything is perfect, we adorn ourselves in flannel grays and reds and caps with earflaps and we load up in the truck.  We sing Christmas carols on the way to the woods where we trek through the snow to find the perfect Christmas tree waiting just for our family.  We hold hands and encircle it, singing Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, with wide smiles on our faces.  

Then we chop it down, while posing for a family picture that would later be sent out in Christmas cards to friends and family near and far.  After we get home, we drink hot chocolate while listening to Christmas carols on the radio, the house warmed with fire and love.  

In Reality, this is what happened instead:  We had no matching flannel grays and reds or hats with flaps, we barely found everyone’s jackets.  We loaded up in the truck, along with a pink ladybug potty seat, since EK hasn’t learned to squat in the woods just yet.  We drove way too far and way too long to find the perfect Christmas tree.  EK sat in her seat and complained the whole time, arguing with Ashlynn and fussing when she touched her carseat.   We trekked around in a little bit of snow, not finding a tree even close to perfect.

So we loaded back up in the truck and drove some more all the while analyzing trees.  Too short, too tall, too thin, too scraggly.  Let’s get out and check that one out.  Nope.  How about that one?  Nope.  Finally we agreed, more from exhaustion than satisfaction on a small little tree with a split trunk.  Thankfully EK had fallen asleep by this time and we were all breathing a sigh of relief,  but unfortunately the family photo op didn’t happen with her in it.

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Once home, we couldn’t find the tree stand because obviously I’d thrown it out in one of my decluttering stages.  After one run to Walmart for a tree stand, we discovered we didn’t have any working lights, so back to Walmart again.  JDub went to work on the tree.  He trimmed it up, cut it off, and dug out an old bird’s nest.  And then it took a good long while to put the tree in it’s stand without tipping over.

It is a monstrosity!  Here’s a tidbit:  A small tree in the forest is a big tree in your living room.  It may look small out in the big old wilderness next to behemoth pines, but indoors next to the Lazy Boy, it’s quite impressive.  It’s got one side that’s bare and one side that looks pregnant.  It’s crooked and crazy.  Some limbs grow up, some grow down.

Instead of the family joining together and decorating, I did it begrudgingly, realizing much too late that we should have said to heck with family traditions and put up the dadgum prelit Christmas tree sitting in the garage with its tree stand tucked safely in its green vinyl bag.

So while everyone in the world displays and enjoys their perfectly shaped trees with color coordinated ornaments, I give you our tree with no lights on the top because there’s no way I could have reached it even if I had enough lights to put on it, with its hodgepodge mixmatched ornaments from way back.  It’s not pretty, it’s not decorated well, the bottom strand of lights flicker on and off sporadically, and it sticks out nearly to the front door.

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But after all the hoopla, today I have to say it’s kind of growing on me with all its imperfections.  It’s like so many of us.  Messed up in all sorts of ways.  But that’s the way it was created, just like us.  So instead of looking upon it with contempt,  I embrace this messed up tree and rid myself of the perfectionistic attitude that society forces upon me as to what our Christmas tree should look like.

It is what it is.

And so am I.

‘Tis the season.