When I was a child, Christmas was the most wondrous time. My parents hired a family friend to play Santa. Every Christmas Eve I would watch out the window waiting for my father to arrive home from work. I knew that meant dinner would follow shortly and then Santa was coming. We had a lot of children in our family, my father worked several jobs, and I know we did not have much money. But, I don’t EVER remember being disappointed at Christmas. That’s not to say I received every gift I asked for, but I remember my Christmases fondly.
As a teenager, I dated and eventually married a young man who, when asked, would proclaim his favorite holiday to be Christmas. One evening, he came to pick me up for a date in his father’s pickup truck, and I told my mother to tell him I was running a little behind and would be out soon. I then tip-toed through the kitchen, out the back door, and decorated his truck with Christmas decorations. It was July. It was a pleasant surprise, and we laughed about it often.
After we married, we had two children and Christmas continued to be a most wondrous time. I relished the time I shopped for their gifts. I couldn’t help but sing Christmas carols with them in the car, in the house, even in the mall. My children learned to love Christmas just as much as I did. We went to the Santa parade, they sat on Santa’s lap, we drove around town looking at all of the fantastic Christmas displays. We would go home and drink hot chocolate, and we would watch a Christmas movie. Their father’s favorite movie was It’s A Wonderful Life. “Every time a bell rings an angel gets it’s wings.” My all time favorite movie line.
One January after nine years of marriage, my husband, my children’s father, died. I think a part of my Christmas spirit died then, too. I worked hard for many years to find that spirit but it seemed as though it was never quite the same for me. For my children, the traditions remained the same. I never allowed Christmas to be any less important for them. In fact, I think I overcompensated to make it better for them. I tried to make it work. I tried to be happy, but I felt like I couldn’t force myself to be happy any longer. Where had my Christmas spirit gone? Where had my love for life disappeared to? I wanted to have it back. I wanted to feel joy.
Each year I feel less and less festive. Each year I put up fewer Christmas decorations. Is it because of the sad memories of my first husband’s passing? Is it because my children are all grown and I miss our special traditions? Hormones? At my age I can blame a lot of things on hormones. Could it be the commercialization of Christmas? Maybe I’m trying too hard. Those commercials make it look so perfect. Everyone is happy, everyone seems to have such a perfect wonderful life.
I don’t know why holidays are difficult for me. But I do know this. As I walk to my neighborhood grocery store or my friendly Walmart, and I pass the Salvation Army volunteers, I remind myself there are those who are less blessed than me, and I should be grateful. I see in my mind a picture of a younger me, waiting for Santa. I focus on my children and our traditions. I think of my beautiful grandbabies giggling uncontrollably. And when I hear those bells being rung by those volunteers, I always stop and think, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets it’s wings.”
For the month of December, we will be celebrating the holidays with our 12 Days of Christmas. Be sure to check back for a new holiday piece by a new contributor.
Holly Barry is a mother, grandmother and Cardinals fan. She also enjoys driving cross country to visit her grandchildren.