Wednesday, 22 December 2010
By Lyn Burnstine of The Lynamber Times
At this time of year, I am visited by the ghosts of Christmas past - not one, but many: bittersweet appearances all, as I recall the joys and pleasures of Christmases past, and realize that they all speak to me of losses.
Christmas was truly magical in my childhood - not diminished one bit by the cash-poor existence of my family of origin. What lack there was in resources was well-compensated by my parents’ creativity and ingenuity.
I remember exquisite handmade doll clothes, beautiful hand-knit sweaters with matching elastic headbands covered with yarn flowers, and warm mittens and parka hats. My all-time favorite was a music cabinet, made by a cousin but commissioned by my father who spent weeks before Christmas telling my sister and me that we were getting an elephant.
One particularly vivid experience was going on Christmas Eve to Golden Church, a beautiful little white frame house of worship that we attended mostly in the summer while living at my grandmother’s farm.
There was a large decorated tree, and at a certain time - with the air crackling with the electricity of our excitement - we all heard the approach of Santa’s sleigh bells. He handed out a gift to each child. Even though I understood that the dear little gold necklace in the shape of a four-leaf-clover was really a gift from my parents, I remember saying, “See, Santa is real!”
Then came years of lavish Christmases, buying and making things for my own husband and children. Part of my yearly supermom and superwife thing was making handmade ornaments from satin balls covered with sequins and old broken-up jewelry--oh, the sore fingers from all those pins. I must have given away several hundred throughout the years - and enough cookies to start a bakery - and I loved every minute of it.
Then came the crash, in December 1972: the final moments of my marriage. I thought I’d never be able to bear Christmas again. But waiting in the wings, unbeknownst to me, was a kind and generous man who would keep a mental list, all year long, of everything I’d mentioned needing or wanting and put it under my tree.
Six wonderful years came and went, and then came a Christmas that hurt so much I never wanted to see another. One of my most painful moments, after his death in November of 1979, was Lisa’s sudden awareness and comment, “Mom, there aren’t any presents for you under the tree.”
My joy at Christmas had always been in giving, not caring about the getting, but that year I cared.
The human spirit is amazingly resilient. I’ve had some glorious Christmases since then watching my grandchildren experience the magic; my friends have often included me in their celebrations; some of the best holidays were spent bringing joy to people in nursing homes. I’ve also had some terribly lonely ones.
I probably love and hate Christmas no more nor less than other single people trying to find new meaning in a day of painful ghosts.
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