Dr. Madelaine Paschal
Decades of Christmases have come and gone, and I’m still waiting… for just one more Christmas dinner, one more Christmas “event,” one more card… just one more. Because, you see, I have always treasured Christmas; the name itself rings my bells, the idea of it makes everything better, the sound of it never gets old… like I’m getting. It’s October.
You remember the wonderful thoughts we all had as children… “Santa is waiting at the big store downtown to hear what I really want this year. Even my parents don’t’ know, but Santa will!” “I have been medium good this year, so Santa or Mom or Dad will realize that my wish list should be gotten. After all, it’s us kids’ time of year!” “I hope it snows! It did last year, but then we lived in South Dakota!” “I can hardly wait for the Christmas Pageant! I’m the angel this year… (‘Fear not, for behold’)… I memorized it last year when I didn’t get the part!” And our lists were compiled by January, the year before!
You and I also probably remember when we finally grew up. Christmas became one shopping trip after another… beginning in October! Would she like this? Would he be offended if I got him that? He looks like a size medium, but they grow so fast. Will it get to them on time? I’ll start my pies earlier this year. I’m throwing that old tree away! Should I get a real one or a fake one with preset lights? Should they twinkle or just “glow”? Don’t forget the wrapping paper, tape and bows… pre-stick or self-tie? And the dinner… whose turn is it? Should I go all out and decorate this year? Will she be coming home this year? When does their flight arrive? What time does ours get in? Who is picking us up… please be on time!
This year it’s different. It has been ever since the kids left home. But this year, it’s really different, because I am. You see, I’ve gotten past “past” Christmases… well, sort of. Don’t get me wrong. I still marvel at the array of decorations available, early in the fall. I still love the sound of the “sounds of the season.” And I still believe that HE is the reason for it all… just like I was taught so many years ago. But this year… different.
Christmas seems to be a quieter time of year for me… a simpler, more straight-forward season. This year, I’ll be cooking in my daughter’s kitchen, her menu, not mine. She has very simple tastes… turkey, yes, and green beans, but not the casserole with French fried onion rings on top. She never liked pumpkin pie, although she ate it many Christmases because I made one (sometimes two) every year. She never liked cranberry sauce, so I’m not bringing any. She asked for plain mashed potatoes… oh, okay! And one more thing, could she have all the leftovers put in plastic containers and frozen… so she can remember this Christmas for a while afterwards, as she struggles with one more exam, one more “round,” one more late night learning every theory known to the medical university where she is spending eight long years? Of course.
It is all different, but not so bad. I have already started singing my favorite “songs” about all things “Christmassy,” even know some new ones. I still hate, “Santa Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and always will. I will still see as many of my “old” friends as possible, just for old times’ sake. I will still relish the smell of Barnes and Noble, our Christmas tree lot, the thousands of new decorations in Dillard’s Christmas department, my neighbor’s outside light display (because I no longer own outdoor lights and even if I did, I can’t climb ladders to attach them to nails we hammered into the fascia so many years ago). I still “stock up” with chicken stock, canned pumpkin, jellied cranberry sauce (because I still love watching it slide out of the can right smack dab into my mother’s cranberry dish… fits perfectly), one frozen turkey breast (when I get home from my time with my daughter, I will want one weekend of Christmas smells coming from my old oven) and lots of eggnog… which is now too sweet, bad for me, and will go “bad” in my fridge, because I can’t drink it all myself (I’ll save my bourbon for “straight talk” and Sleepless in Seattle). I will send away for pecans, fruitcake (which won’t ever go “bad” in 70 more years) and go get chocolate covered cherries at Walgreens.
I guess Christmas at my age is still good. I still have a cherished husband, two cherished dogs, a few cherished friends and a little more time to thank God for them all. I still can walk around my own block looking at “lights,” drive to Safeway in my own car to get “the trimmings,” send a few carefully-chosen cards and smile when I think of all of the young “moms” who will have their own memories when they’re my age. I just hope they’re as treasured as mine. So, yes, Christmas at my age is… well, good! I guess I haven’t gotten past it after all… just through many of them… and I’m still here! And here comes another one! Come on, ring those bells… It’s Christmas!