A wonderful life...
This week, I’m going to practice the art of recycling by re-posting a blog I wrote many years ago (1995). I’m 99% positive that no one ever read that blog so effectively, it’s brand new. And, if I don’t say so myself, still quite poignant, albeit personal. But to quote a line from one of my favorite movies, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal”. -Meg Ryan, You’ve Got Mail.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas. Of course, there are only 25 days left (yikes!) but I guess what I mean is that this year, for some reason, I’ve been thinking about what Christmas means to me. I recently saw a program where people were discussing their “best Christmases ever” so I’ve been trying to figure out when mine was.
Truth is, any Christmas at which my Grandparents were present comes to mind. My Grannie, in all her 4’ 11” glory, used to really do it up. She wasn’t extravagant; she was crafty, practical and thoughtful. Everyone in the family, children and adults alike, would receive a “sack.” It was a brown paper grocery store bag filled to the brim with your name scribbled on the side in magic marker. Contents would often include: new pj’s, a handmade afghan or quilt, assorted gum and candy, a coffee mug, socks, and even sometimes underwear. But it wasn’t what was in the bags that mattered. It was the pure unadulterated fun of a huge room full of family digging through their booty, making messy little piles on the floor, shouting out in joy at what they’d found. My Grannie would find a vantage point from which she could see everyone and just watch with her hands behind her back and the world’s biggest smile on her face. That was pure joy to her. As was watching her, to me.
I also fondly adore the Christmas Eve when Robin proposed to me. We were sitting around the fire in a cozy little brick-walled room of my Dad’s house. Along with my Dad and Stepmom, we had agreed to each open one gift which we did, and it was lovely. My then-boyfriend (Robin) gave me a pretty black sweater that was so very “me” and just when I thought it was over, he got a silly look on his face and came gliding across the hard wood floor on one knee holding a tiny velvet box. I knew exactly what it was, as we’d been living together for five years and had recently started setting the alarm ahead fifteen minutes so that we could wake up and *hug* a while before heading off to our separate days! But it rocked me to my soul, nonetheless. As he opened the box, containing the most beautiful vintage ring I’d ever seen, my eyes flooded with tears. And by the time he said the words, “Cara, I love you with all my heart; WILL YOU MARRY ME”, I was a blubbering fool.
A few years later, was our first Christmas with our daughter, Ellie. What a beautiful Gerber baby she was! Plump and rosy with big chocolate eyes and hardly any white blonde hair. We dressed her up like Santa and she was the living, breathing, epitome of all things good. I only wish my Grandparents had lived to see her. They would have undoubtedly known at first glance, how that precious little person would change our lives, and our family…forever.
The next year, when Ellie was about a year and a half, my brother and sister-in-law hosted Christmas at their big beautiful home. The food was amazing as my brother had fresh seafood flown in from the Gulf, the company was outstanding: my Mom was there for the first time in years and even my Mother-in-Law was there, along with assorted friends and family. Even old St. Nick paid a visit! Everyone, young and old, took turns sitting on Santa’s lap. Laughter ensued, and it was incredibly fun!
And, of course, there were the many years of owning my own small business. During this time, Christmas was nothing short of exhausting! My own family traditions often went by the wayside due to the fact that my days and nights were spent literally running around town, not only in an attempt to provide the best possible customer service to my patrons, but to somehow simultaneously get my own Christmas shopping done from my neighboring merchants.
But, driving through our historic downtown at the end of a long day and seeing our storefront all lit up like a Christmas tree OR stealing away a few minutes to enjoy an Eggnog Latte with my friends and family OR having someone spontaneously pop-in and play Christmas Carols on the piano while our customers sang along and ultimately spent their hard-earned money on the merchandise I’d worked so hard all year to select… was priceless!
It occurs to me that I love everything about Christmas. I love scouring the greater Southwest for the absolute perfect gift for someone and then seeing the look on their face when they open it. I love setting a gorgeous table and joining my nearest and dearest in eating and laughing until it hurts. I love dragging out the Christmas ornaments that I swore I was going to pack away more carefully last year and realizing that they’re all perfectly intact and even more wonderful than I remember. I love that crazy Hawaiian Christmas song that Dean Martin belts out over my cable radio station. I love the memories and traditions that have sustained me. Even when there wasn’t any snow, or my idea of “family” was suddenly somehow different.
Each year, when you cringe at the sound of the first Christmas carol or you physically feel pain in your chest while pulling out your credit card for the hundredth time. Or you get so OVER the commercialization of Christmas that you forget what it’s really about, try and take time to remember your best Christmas(es) ever. It’ll not only warm your heart and moisten your eyes—it may just remind you that it’s truly a wonderful life.
Ornaments of Christmases past hang on our tree each year. Christmas at Papa & Grannie’s was so fun largely because there were so many kids. I’m on the far right with my brother, Dru, and 7 of our 10 cousins. The woman in the middle is our Great Grandmother.
Seconds after I said “YES”, my Dad managed to snap a picture, through his tears.
No exaggeration. Ellie was the CUTEST. BABY. EVER!
Dad and Santa, circa 1997