Comfort and Joy

About the joy…

When I was growing up, my dad put the magic in our Christmas. Every year, he hunted down items on our list with great tenacity and stayed up all night assembling complicated toys in service of us having the best Christmas ever. He would troop us to a city park where an enormous manger scene with live animals was created on a baseball infield temporarily converted to a cave, making quite an impression on wide-eyed children. We would take evening drives through the Plaza to see the lights. If it was enchanting and joyful, he located it and shared it with us. No one enjoyed giving to others more than my dad. He was a lover of joy.

He was also intrigued by how things work and, to that end, spent many hours tinkering and creating and inventing because he had that kind of mind. He always marveled at what others would create whether it was art or simply a well-designed utility.

A few years ago, my husband surprised me with an IPad for Christmas. This is a photo of me on Christmas Day showing it to my dad—he was 80. I believe it captures the utter joy he felt at seeing an invention that pushed the envelope and illustrates his tremendous capacity to be awed.

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And here is the comfort part…

When reading a favorite blog this holiday season, Privilege, I shared this family memory in response to Lisa’s post about family gift-giving traditions:

Our gift-giving traditions never revolved around a single item; each person had their own gifting signature, if you will. Which is how my siblings and I, in adulthood, came to treasure my dad’s gigantic gift bag of emergency-preparedness accoutrements every year. Oh, he’d give us all money, of course, but he’d also spend hours combing hardware stores to put together just the right mix of things each of us might need in case of a car breakdown on a single lane highway in the wilderness during a 10-day blizzard or a flat-out nuclear holocaust. Think Harrison Ford in Mosquito Coast. For all of our private eye-rolling, what do you suppose we missed most last Christmas, our first without him? Yep, the flashlights and blankets and jumper cables and cans of windshield de-icer.  😉

Wishing you all much comfort and great joy this holiday season!

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Christmas Joys

It’s nearly Halloween, so naturally my mind has turned to Christmas.  It’s next to impossible to avoid the shove of retailers who have taken to putting Christmas items out in August.  My son complained in September about assembling artificial trees and hoisting Christmas decorations onto shelves at the hardware store where he works. 

I had a particularly jarring experience when I visited a big box retail store in October where a Christmas aisle was sandwiched between two Halloween aisles.  I walked among the motion-triggered laughing ghouls only to step into a row of bows and bells and pre-lit trees and then back to the styrofoam headstones and black tableware festooned with spiders.  Disorienting, to say the least.

I admit that I succumbed to the retailers eons ago.  Actually, I got irritated when their strategies made public the plan I had followed for years.  I found that the entire Christmas season was infinitely less stressful for me and my family if I got all of my shopping done before Thanksgiving.  That way, we could actually enjoy the month of December by indulging the traditions we most relish: selecting a real tree then decorating it with our ornament collection, baking at least 1 dozen different kinds of Christmas cookies from my husband’s family recipes, littering the house with special decorations, sending Christmas cards to friends and family, adorning the yard and house with Christmas lights, and lining the front door and porch railings with greenery.

Our now vast ornament collection actually began quite modestly the Christmas season a few weeks before my husband and I wed when some dear family friends hosted a Christmas ornament shower for us.  While this might have been the least practical of the wedding showers given in my honor, it has come to be the one most cherished and remembered 27 years later.

It was a cold but clear Saturday night in December at the home of Mr. and Mrs. G. who were well known in my family’s community for an extraordinary annual party each Christmas night after they had hosted their relatives for a sit-down dinner.  For kids, there was no better way to cap off the excitement of Christmas day than to spend the evening playing Sardines and board games with our friends while our parents sang Christmas carols and enjoyed cocktails, Christmas cookies, and hors d’oeuvres.  By the way, this was not a catered affair but the result of much baking and cooking by Mrs. G.

The ornament shower yielded ornaments of all different shapes and kinds from a Waterford crystal piece with a Christmas scene etched on its surface to a wicker bell with berries tied around its top. As we opened each one, we hung it on a small artificial tree our hosts had set atop a table and later gave us as a gift.  By evening’s end, the tree was filled with unique ornaments made of every imaginable material: copper, brass, glass, silver, pewter, porcelain,  wood, crochet, silk, and terra cotta. 

Every year,  as we open up the Christmas storage boxes, my husband and I are transported to that winter night in 1982 when we were young and ready to start our life together surrounded by good friends and family.  But the real treasure now is the repetoire of reminiscences we have to tell our children of all the people who shared that evening with us.

My husband and I are receiving an unusual gift this Christmas.  A dear friend’s daughter is marrying a day after our wedding anniversary.  Truth be known, she is the reason we married in January and not November as originally planned since her mother was a bridesmaid and due to give birth to this child at Thanksgiving that year. 

It has long been our dream to one day host an ornament shower for someone during the Christmas season.  This year that very wish is coming true and how ironic it be for that baby girl born in November without whom there never would have been a Christmas ornament shower in the first place.  Ours is, unquestionably, a wonderful life.