« It's a Wonderful Life | Main | Santa Claus »

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmases Past

By Lyn Burnstine of The Lynamber Times

Christmas Wreath

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.

Christmas Ornaments

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.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Memories of Christmas past are bittersweet and you have captured the feeling of the joys and sorrows they evoke so very well.

I think every elder has memories of happier times as well as the sad times. As they say, it goes with the territory.

Lyn - You capture the ups and downs of your 'Christmas's Past' so well!

I can't decide which is better, your writing or your photography. Amazon no longer carries the cassette, "Songs Across the Years", so I am unable to throw your musical talents into the mix! - Sandy

You beautifully captured Christmas over the years and left me with feelings of great joy and great sadness. But it takes that mix to make us who we are. Loved it.

Thank you all for your kind words and taking the time to comment in this busy season. Sandy, there is one kids' song on this web site. Click on "music samples." The granddaughter who was too young to include on that album has been a voice teacher and concert soloist for 3 years--THAT'S how old that tape is! http://www.hudsonvalleyfolkguild.org/music.htm

Well, okay, cut and paste:(

Lyn - If the written words hadn't indicated otherwise, I'd swear I was listening to Joan Baez or Judy Collins.

(I can't stand being tickled between my toes either!) - Sandy

Wonderful Lyn. It touched my heart as with your words I could feel your joyous times and your sad times. Christmas, as you say, is definitely a time for many memories to pop up...some we might not have even thought about in years. Hope your holidays are great and the best for 2011.

Lyn, it's all been said but I want to add one thing - among the ornaments I distributed to children when I sold the house was one of those gorgeous ornaments you made and gave to me so many years ago. Always, when I took it out and when I put it away I thought of you. It was so beautiful throughout the years and I thank you again for that gift.

Brenda, It was always fun to go into my friends' homes and see them hanging on their trees for years and years--I, too, gave most of mine to grandkids last year--those in the photo are all that I kept of a hundred or so.

That explains why I was so blue two day ago. But I have received an amazing gift, a better understanding of me as I relate to the world. Finally at 77!! Maybe the best is yet to come, Lyn. I found it in the absolute most unexpected place.
Peace to all.

Lovely to know that missing all those "other life" memories is shared by so many..It isn't the gifts or the mince pies, though they are missed too..it is the dear people, parents, aunts, uncles, friends and spouses who flash around in great memories..thanks for reminding me..here's to new memories for us all...Mary Follett

And a very Merry Christmas to you all.

The comments to this entry are closed.