I suppose I am different from most other people when it comes to the stores putting out the Christmas displays. I like them going out in October. After all, we in The Salvation Army have finished planning most of the details of our Christmas effort by then and it is good to see that someone else is thinking about it, too.
Another reason I don’t mind is because Christmas has so many happy memories for me. The secrets and the family traditions make each year a predictable surprise as we work the variations on a theme. Our closet is even now getting more difficult to negotiate while the hints are flying like reindeer as to what would be nice to find under the tree this year. I can think of so many special times and hope that we will add more this year,.
But that is tempered by mementos of the heart.
Many Christmases ago the quality of the memories changed. On Labor Day of 1972 my mother died. Although the beauty and wonder of Christmas has been blessed by the addition of family members, a part of it for me went away forever with her last breath.
I recall my trips with Mom to see Santa and watching the endless Christmas specials with her nearby. When I hang the bulbs on the tree I can be a little boy and I seem to sense my mother near, as if, well, as if I could turn suddenly and feel her warmth again.
Sometimes I think I would give every possession I had just to hear her voice and pass the time with her.
At best, this is a lonely world at times. When I think along these lines, I think also of my friends who will be spending this Christmas a little more isolated. This year will be the first when dad or daughter or grandmother is missing.
Or maybe it was two or ten or fifty years ago when the precious one stole away, and they were left with memories so real as to almost be touchable. But reality reinforces the cold seclusion. The arms are empty of their hug, the cheeks far removed from their kiss.
But rather than trying to deny myself both the pleasure of her memory and fighting uselessly the weight of my heartache, this is what I will do as a Christmas gift to myself. I will allow myself to grow misty eyed during her favorite carol and miss her when I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I will smile when I remember standing next to her in church and feel the comfort of leaning my head against her arm during the sermon.
And though it may look silly to someone else, I will stand on my doorstep on Christmas Eve and blow a kiss to Heaven trusting that God will deliver it in time for Christmas morning. And then I shall walk inside and hug the ones who fill me with joy this Christmas.