So, just like old Scrooge himself, last night I was visited by three ghosts; "Christmas Past", "Christmas Present", and of course, "Christmas Future". I have a few vivid memories of early Christmases and those memories live quietly tucked away - coming out to play only occasionally. They're special nonetheless. When I was very, very young we still celebrated Christmas with my mom's extended family. Her Aunt Velma and Uncle Dave lived right next door to my grandparents' country home in Dinuba, CA. I remember floral curtains. Or was it a floral couch? It was definitely floral something. Anyway, there were maybe 20 or so family members at those early Christmas gatherings. One year my dad was given a pair of water skis. Even though there was a definite chill in the air, it was never too cold to play with my siblings and cousins outside among the orange trees, peach trees, and farm equipment. One Christmas when I was maybe 7 or 8, we spent a few days of our Christmas vacation in San Francisco with my dad's family. My Grandpa, Aunt Saundra and her family - along with several dogs, all lived in a two story walk-up in the Twin Peaks area of San Francisco. I remember waking up in the middle of the night. The lighted color wheel spun slowly in front of the silver tinsel tree, giving the illusion that the tree was changing colors every couple of seconds. I stood next to the tree and looked out the giant window in the front room. Since the house was high on a hill, I had a great view of what seemed to me to be the entire city of San Francisco - lights as far as I could see. The picture is seared in my mind's eye and the memory always makes me smile. I don't remember what I got for Christmas that year, but I remember my little girl self standing alone in a room watching over a sleeping city.
I remember Christmas, 1981. I had moved to Memphis, Tennessee in November and I didn't know a lot of people. My new boss invited me to spend Christmas Eve with his family. I got to dress up and spend a lovely evening in Germantown, eating a fabulous meal while sitting at a grand dining table in a beautiful home with Cecil Blackwood and his family. Their hospitality will never be forgotten. I have so many amazing Christmas memories from when the kids were little. They would sleep together in one bedroom, giggling and laughing 'till they fell asleep waiting for Santa to come. They woke to find gifts under the tree and a fire crackling in the fireplace. Santa had even filled the stockings :) Tom would always read the story of the first Christmas from the book of Luke, and then the wrappings and ribbons would go flying. The kids are now 21, 22, and 25, and yet - on this Christmas Eve - they all went to sleep in the same room, woke up to find that "Santa" had come in the night, and after reading about Mary, Joseph, and the baby Christ child, the wrappings and ribbons flew off the packages. The responses are a bit more subdued (only a bit), but their gratitude and appreciation is palpable.
One more Christmas past memory - last year was awful! There's no need to rehash, but I was so hurt and felt so betrayed last year. Sadly, when I shared my feelings, family members told me that I was the one who "ruined" Christmas by expressing myself. One family member told me that she would "no longer share" her life with me. My heart has been broken.
My life has been ANYTHING but calm. In fact, it has been downright horrible at times. It seems that every moment of joy is followed by hours of heartache, so I'm a bit superstitious about saying things like, "the future looks bright" out loud. I don't buy the "name it and claim it" life philosophy. I will say, however, that after years and years and years of happy memories peppered with unimaginable sadness, I do feel the anticipation of hope. The Ghost of Christmas Future looks happier and more hopeful than the character Charles Dickens painted.
Yesterday was a fabulous Christmas day! My three babies are adults now. They are people I love and respect. Even better - I LIKE them, and they seem to like me. We are all filled with gratitude and appreciation!
Hope. My word for today - and the days to come - is Hope.