Merry Christmas!

A Buffet of Christmases

I recall those, when as a child, no matter how much or how little was under the tree, it was wondrous. I often knew that my gifts were second hand things that had perhaps belonged to a neighbor child. I didn’t care. It was a fine gift. Even though we had a coal furnace, like many others in our small town, it didn’t bother me at all. The snow being on the ground the entire winter, only marked by thin layers of black soot between the different snowfalls was just a fact of life in Marlboro. Winter was cold. Everyone knew that who lived there. We had snow. We wore gloves and boots and we built an occasional snowman. We visited friends on Christmas day and they visited us. We enjoyed seeing the coloring books and crayons, dolls, games, tea sets or dump trucks that everyone had displayed under the tree. They remained there until New Year’s Day, when at last they were incorporated into each person’s collection. It was fun to lay on the floor by the tree when the presents were still unopened; to imagine what each colorful package concealed. Once they were open, it was fun to lay and look and at our treasures, picking out which one to play with next.

There was one Christmas where we had our first artificial tree. It was given to us by a co-worker of my mom. It was white and sat on a turn-table. As the tree slowly turned, a multicolored film rotated over a light bulb, casting various colors on the white of the tree, making it look magical. There were no presents under the tree that year and by New Year’s day my family had been evicted and we were homeless. It was a hard time. I don’t know how my parents felt, but I cried quite a bit. I didn’t know what was going to become of us.

Other Christmases brought very good memories and much promise of a bright year to follow. On Christmas mornings, I knew that my own children were each in their bed, tearing into the little wrapped presents in their stockings, which appeared at the foot of their beds sometime in the wee hours of the morning. It gave them something to do until it was time to go out and see the tree. To this day I don’t know if my children ever snuck out to see the tree before morning. That’s okay. I loved watching my children open their presents. It was among the very best of all memories in my life, recalling their faces and their glowing cheeks. I tucked every moment in my heart.

Other Christmas mornings have been spent with grandchildren, who glow with delight, just as much as their parents did as children.

This Christmas is different yet again. Its just around the corner. Over the past two years I’ve made some small ornaments to hang on a very small tree. Last Christmas they hung on the tree at my friend Reen’s house when I was there to house sit for the winter The year before they were on a very tiny little tree in my Winnebago motorhome.

I think these are my favorite ornaments. When I was a child we had the beautiful glass ornaments. Each year when we put up the tree, I got to hang my favorite ornament, which was the smallest one of them all. It was mostly a gentle blue and matte gold. I think it had tiny flecks of glitter on parts of it. The ornaments that I made over the past two winters have been fun to make and I’ve left at least one with each person I visited. I hope to make at least one this year. I’m trying to finish up some portraits. There are nine people in the three portraits and I’ve been working on them since October. I need to finish two of them before Christmas and it has been time-consuming. I’m a perfectionist about portraits. At this final stage of each I’m restless. I know I need to give my eyes a break and it helps to step away for a while. When I do that, I return and always see some small thing that needs changing. I don’t see it if I stare and stare. Anyways, I’m determined to finish them both in the next two days, so I’ve not been working on anything else. Once I’m finished, I can make some ornaments.

This year I’m going through a divorce or rather I’m being divorced. Everyone in my life has their own “people” and I haven’t met anyone here in York…my new hometown. I’m in my first apartment and I can’t explain how wonderful that is. I’m grateful for the people who have given me a place to stay over the past year, but its really nice to have my own place now. I don’t have a television, but I did watch “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye last night. I saw that it has been playing at the Apella Center a couple blocks from here. I think it was playing three evenings a week and the cost was $10. I got kind of excited about the chance to see it on the big screen. I took a picture of the poster with my cell phone when I was out for a walk. I wanted to look it up online and see if there were any showings that weren’t sold out. When I’d walked by on that particular day, there was a sign on the ticket booth window saying that evening’s show was sold out. When I looked it up online, there was a message stating that due to the increased COVID-19 cases of late, all remaining shows were cancelled by order of the governor of Pennsylvania. It made me sad…that COVID would take even that away. I do understand though. So I made some popcorn and watched it on my laptop.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to have a Christmas tree this year. One reason is because I’m not sure where I’ll be for future Christmases. It might be here, but it might be in an apartment somewhere else. It also might be in a travel trailer. If its a travel trailer, then I’ve already got too many belongings. I had it down to a couple of suitcases and about six small boxes of belongings. I won’t need a Christmas tree that’s more than about eighteen inches high in a travel trailer…if that’s the route I take. Also, because of COVID no one can come to visit, so no one would even see it but me. No one will be able to share a meal with me. Restaurants will be closed. No one will sing carols with me and I’m not bold enough to walk the halls of my apartment building singing “Silent Night, Holy Night”. I’ve gotten bolder, but I’m not that bold…yet. I’m not going to make a Christmas dinner. I made a Thanksgiving dinner, though an abbreviated version, and had leftovers for far too long. I’m going to try and come up with something else to do; make new traditions for my new life. Maybe I’ll make fudge instead of turkey or ham. After all I have my candy thermometer now. I might even have the ingredients for it. I have the stuff to make Toll House cookies, too. I’d like to go for a walk on Christmas day. I’m one block from the historic district. Everything will be closed, but it would still be nice.

One new tradition is the concert that I heard earlier today. At noon, for thirty minutes, the train whistle outside my apartment (see there’s good about living right next to a train track!) played Christmas carols. I can only imagine how difficult that was to do. Here is “The First Noel” performed at noon today, outside my window, set to some of my favorite pictures.

I took the pictures at the top of the post with my cell phone and an app that imitates an old photo booth. Some days, I’m so giddy about having a place of my own and freedoms that I’ve never had before that I am just fine with making funny faces. I am bold enough for that.

Merry Christmas to you all. May these last days of 2020 be the very last days of the fear it brought us…and the precursor of a year of great joy as we reach out to shake hands with someone…anyone.