“If wishes and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”
Not the exact quote from “Dandy” Don Meredith of Dallas Cowboy and Monday Night Football fame but the original “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas” does not quite fit. Unfortunately, the “wish in one hand, pee in the other and see which one fills up the fastest” seems to better exemplify my feelings at this moment.
I remind myself this is my “blue” time of the year. “I’ll have a bah-looooo Christmasssssss without you” …without the sun. Shortened days lead to increased depression…at least the after solstice the days will begin to lengthen, and spring will soon be here…yeah…right! Did you hear Elvis’s voice in your head as you read the quote? I did as I wrote it.
I have memories of Christmases past that do not include “sugar plum fairies” or being “snug in (my) bed.” I remember candy and nuts in handsome, handmade, patchwork stockings…”hung by the chimney with care” or handed out by my grandmother to her five grandchildren. Pencils and pens, pocket notebooks, a pocket New Testament and citrus fruits joined unshelled mixed nuts along with peppermint and butter mint candies. My grandmother was quite a practical gift giver, having lived in a time when fruit or a handmade doll for Christmas might be the norm. She made many of her gifts; patchwork quilts, hand stitched with needle and thread, or small strips of lace tatted into bookmarks. I wish she still filled those stockings with memories…or made those quilts.
My father often made a trip to the small town of Monroe, North Carolina, on Christmas Eve morning. A twenty-mile drive, he took me with him, probably to keep us both out of my mother’s hair as she prepared to receive guests that evening. I remember the “busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style”, the crush of people scurrying to finish their last-minute shopping, holding his hand to keep from being lost in the rush.
Pausing to watch the mechanical Christmas scene in the Belk Brothers storefront before seeing a legless man sitting on a type of mechanic’s creeper selling pencils. I remember the tears in my father’s eyes as he bought a pencil…for five dollars. Stopping here and there, finally at Woolworth’s Five and Dime for a bag of warm cashew nuts that we hurried to eat before they cooled. I don’t know where to get warmed cashews anymore and wish I didn’t tear up thinking about them.
My mother spent weeks decorating for Christmas and preparing for our Christmas Eve gathering of the family at my grandmother’s and later at our home. A huge tree in a small living room sat in the corner between the picture window and fireplace. Silver tinsel over white plastic icicles and bubbling lights. The bubble lights…they don’t seem to make them like hers anymore…real glass, not those plastic things.
I intently watched them, their gurgling heralding sweet ambrosia, Missouri cookies, chocolate covered cherries and the excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning. Sneaking around the corner of my bedroom to see if Santa Claus had left my Schwinn Tornado, wondering how he got it down the chimney. I wish I could hear the gurgle of those bubble lights again.
Some wishes still come true. My life with Linda Gail has fostered more memories. She truly is Ms. Peter Pan dressed as Santa’s helper, never having quite grown up. We don’t exchange gifts anymore, just cards. What do you give people who found everything with each other? Like my grandmother, sometimes I try to make memories for my bride. Primitive art in the form of birdhouses or grapevine wreaths, an arbor made from broken mountain laurel. Hollowed out trees, broken limbs, and rusting tin repurposed.
I just chuckled remembering a rock I gave her one Christmas. It wasn’t a diamond, just a rock she “found interesting” from as far back in the woods as we could be and still be in South Carolina. “Sure would be nice if we could bring this home. It would look nice in front of the fireplace.” The heavy “boulder” sits in front of the fireplace reminding me of its punishing trip from the woods. Punishing for me, not the rock. The pain was worth the smile on her face when she unwrapped it on Christmas morning. I wish for more memories giving me chuckles of joy.
Ashley joining us on Christmas Eve as the circle of life made us the eldest family members and the purveyor of Christmas memories. No, not true. Linda Gail is the purveyor of Christmas memories…trying to make them special…for Ashley and her brood and for my brother Steve and wife Rebecca…or anyone who shows up. Just like our parents.
Years ago, there was always a poignant trip home late in the night to return Ashley to her mother. A slow ride in a red VW bug or as she got older shifting the gears in my old FJ 40…larger hand on a smaller hand, running through the gears. running through the night. A bittersweet ride in quiet darkness lit by Christmas lights…showing the way home. I miss those special times, Ashley trying hard not to nod off while I just smiled. A wish and a memory in the back of my mind. Memories…just warm memories…just warm wishes.
My Christmas wish is for new memories. Tonight, we gather at Ashley’s and Justin’s to accommodate the two monkeys that are our grandbabies. We are still joined by brother Steve and his wife, Rebecca. Francis, Linda’s stepmother, comes too.
I know Linda has her own Christmas wishes and memories. Memories of her parents, like mine, now gone, and of a family in faraway Texas. Memories of the first Christmas we spent in our little piece of heaven. Memories memorialized in pictures; a childlike Ashley, her beautiful dark-haired great-grandmother she was too young know and the elf of a man who was Linda Gail’s father, a man I miss as much as my own dad. More memories and wishes…for Linda and me.
The monkeys are two-year-old Nolan and five-year-old Miller. They grow so fast. They will be excited…on a normal day, they are wide open. Wide open yet clingy to their parents until they adjust to the company. Good parents, loving parents, just as I would have wished. The babies’ clinginess will ebb as soon as Santa’s elf in the form of Grandmommy Linda begins to pass out gifts. I’m sure Nolan will enjoy the boxes as much as his treasure trove.
I worry my Christmas wish for the world is too extreme. I wish we truly embraced “peace on earth and good will toward all”. I wish we might enfold the unattainable for a millennium instead of a few hours on Christmas Eve or Day. Love thy neighbor both near and far, known, and unknown, and live and let live. Put the divisiveness away for good…beat swords into plowshares. A hand extended in friendship and grasped with a grin on our faces. Jesus preached it, we should embrace it. It is my greatest wish.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all. May all of your Christmas wishes come true.
The image is of Nolan and Miller Kate and this year’s Christmas tree.
Looking for more musings? https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM