Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Thoughts

Merry Christmas to all. Some random thoughts on Christmas Eve:

-- Wife and I are celebrating our 25th Christmas together as husband and wife. Our first Christmas we were still very tied to our respective families' traditions. We went to church with her parents on Christmas Eve, then had dinner, opened gifts and spent the night with them (even though we lived in the same town). We got up at 6 a.m. and drove to South Arkansas in time for breakfast with my folks. After the day there with them and my brother and his family we drove back to Little Rock for turkey sandwiches with Wife's parents. It was exhausting.

-- Our second Christmas, Wife was pregnant with our first child. We thought she was going into labor Christmas Eve and even went so far as to pack a bag before going to church. HA! The pains subsided and exactly one month later, three weeks past her due date, she delivered Daniel via Caesarean section. He was in no hurry whatsoever.

-- One memorable Christmas was 1988 when our daughter was about seven weeks old. On the afternoon of December 23rd she would not stop crying, which was not uncommon with our colicky babies, but Wife and I could both tell it was more than just the normal fussiness. Wife took her to the pediatrician and within a couple of hours she was in the hospital and that's where we spent Christmas that year. We tag-teamed staying in the hospital with her and spending time with her older brother at home. Turned out she had a little problem with her immune system and two more hospitalizations followed over the next few months. Everything eventually kicked in, though, and she's stunningly beautiful and healthy today.

-- The first Christmas after losing my mom was a sad one. She died in October 1996, two weeks after her and my dad's 50th anniversary. Dad was lost without her and decided to just stay home and get through it on Christmas Day. My brother and I said we would come with our families and put up a tree as we had always done but he would not hear of it. We respected his wishes and I called him Christmas morning. He was OK and had decided he would go to lunch at my brother's house. We all got through it and it was fine, but ever since then I have had a very keen awareness of those who are hurting at Christmastime. It's not always happy for everyone.

-- I lost Dad in January of 2006, less than two weeks after he had, at 83 years old, made the 8-hour drive to Nashville to spend Christmas with us. He was not always an easy guest but we really had a good time that year and I'll always be thankful for that Christmas with him. I think a lot of both of my parents at Christmas. I still miss them, but it really is true that good memories comfort you. I am very thankful that Wife's parents, both of whom turned 80 this year, both still join us for Christmas.

-- I love Christmas but I tire of the gift-giving. I enjoy giving special gifts when I want to, but I do not have the "gift" of giving and any type of shopping stresses me out. I also do not receive gifts well and am painfully embarrassed opening gifts in front of people. I realize this is a character deficiency and after years of discussions with Wife about this, I have made some progress. But I still don't like it very much.

-- I don't get all worked up over the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" vs. "Season's Greetings" stuff. Political correctness drives me insane and why it bothers anybody for someone to wish them a Merry Christmas is beyond me, but hey, I won't say it to them if it bothers them. Wish me a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays or anything of the sort and I'm just fine. As Christians we do in fact celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year and noone can take that away from us, so, as I said, I am not getting too excited over all of this. Many of the traditions around the Christmas celebration actually are derived from the old pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice and if I remember the facts correctly, that's how bringing a tree and other greenery inside got started. I know that in all likelihood Jesus was not born in December but I still think it's very appropriate that we make a big deal out of God sending His Son. And if we have tied some other traditions and practices to that that do not have Christian origins, and vice-versa, I am totally OK with that. We can all chill out and not major in the minors.

-- We're making some changes at our house this year for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We are having a "Mexican Fiesta" for Christmas Eve dinner -- enchiladas, fish tacos, chips and salsa. We're going to string up pepper lights in the dining room. If everyone likes, this, we're going to pick another country for Christmas Eve next year and maybe start a new tradition. Tomorrow we're having beef tenderloin and salmon (two of us are non-beef eaters). For years it's been turkey and dresssing and Wife said, if it's all the same to the rest of us, she gets a little tired of doing it again so soon after Thanksgiving. We're all cool with it.

-- We go to a non-denominational church which is rather contemporary and we have three services on Christmas Eve. We, however, do not attend on Christmas Eve. For a number of years now we have gone to a Methodist Church for an 11 p.m. Candlelight and Communion Service that is very traditional and has beautiful music. I love the pipe organ and brass that accompanies the traditional Christmas Carols and I love the choir. It is a highlight of Christmas for me.

-- To anyone who is reading this, I hope you have a blessed Christmas season and that, whatever it means to you, you will have some special times with those you love. If you are hurting this Christmas, I hope you get through it and I will join you in praying for better days ahead.


Bob Barbanes said...

Yeah, Christmas can be exhausting. I'm glad it's finally here. I just wish it weren't over so quickly. You've sure got a quirky family - sounds like a very non-traditional way to spend the holiday (a Mexican fiesta?). But it also sounds like fun. Wish I was there to enjoy it with you.

Oh, and be careful which countries you choose for future celebrations. I mean, that Antarctica Christmas might not work out too well.

"Mommmmm, brrrrr, it's as cold in here as it is outside!"

"Sh-sh-sh-shut up and let me open your p-p-p-present. It's ho-ho-hope it's a damn sp-sp-sp-space heater."

Or, "Kids, this year we're celebrating Christmas in Bangladesh...Woo-Hoo!" Your children will, know that their parents have finally gone 'round the bend.

Merry Christmas! Or should I say, ¡Feliz Navidad! :)

Bob Barbanes said...

Whoops! Screwed up the editing. I will refrain from uttering the usual string of profanity that I learned from a sailor (and it's a good thing mom was in the Navy!).

The line should be, *I* ho-ho-hope it's a...

Can't win 'em all :-/

Bob said...

Yeah one of my wise-ass sons said it's Greek next year with Gyros and Baklava (sp). It was really fun, though. We strung up the lights and my daughter put her iPod on speaker and played 'Feliz Navidad' and put it on repeat. It was a hoot.

Hal Johnson said...

Merry Christmas Bob, and thanks for the great writing.

I grew up in southern California, in a town with a large Hispanic community. The holiday tamales were always wonderful, and it makes my mouth water just thinking about them.

Kelly said...

Merry Christmas, Bob! We had our family celebration yesterday and had a great time.

My mother and father have been gone for 32 and 38 years, respectively. I think of them (and Christmases past) a lot this time of year.

Hey...a Greek theme for next year sounds good! I use to make Baklava. Yum!!

quid said...

Merry Christmas, Bob! I love the thought of your Mexican fiesta. I wasn't in a position to do traditional Thanksgiving this year, so had to save the "whole bird thing" for Christmas. It was delicious! 7 pm and kids and significant others are all napping a little from too much food!

I really loved hearing your stories of Christmas past. My mom's been gone now 25 years, and dad 21. I still miss them at the holidays (and every day, you might as well say)and am fortunate my own two live so close.

Ho ho ho to you! quid

Debby said...

I can make a very good moussaka for your Greek Christmas!

Our Christmas was not like usual, but you know, it was special, and it was loving, and I couldn't ask for more. I've enjoyed the time with my family. We are headed out tonight for the extended family Christmas with Tim's mother's family.

WV is ailliali. I feel like yelling oxen free!

Redlefty said...

Here in South Texas many families do the tamales for Christmas as well. Sounds cool!

Merry Christmas!