As I write this, it is officially five days before Christmas Eve and nine days before my surgery. My life is a paradox of mixed emotion. I love Christmas, I hate the commercialism. But then maybe I secretly love the commercialism, even though admitting to it is like admitting to enjoying the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. I like that while perusing the aisles I am serenaded with the sounds of feel-good "Oh Holy Night" and "Jingle Bell Rock" and that even when Christmas begins for the retailers the day after Halloween and I am undeniably annoyed (how could they?) I am thrust into the spirit anyway. I’m just glad I don’t work retail, or then I would hate Christmas.
You know they do it for marketing; corporate marketing brilliance that is meant to prey on our emotion of giving…and buying….and we do, because we love to give. Their little marketing ploy is downright evil if you think about it, maximizing the goodness in our hearts even when our pocketbooks lack the necessary padding to accompany our desires to buy for others. So out come the charge cards. I shuffle through, wondering which has the lowest interest rate; the lowest balance so that when the bill comes after the spirit has long passed, I can tell myself the little lie that I didn’t spend that much. It’s brilliant really, just plain brilliant. Then, I secretly hate Christmas. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. Sometimes I hate Christmas.
But this year is different. I am strong enough to know that the real spirit of Christmas has nothing to do with charging gifts; so I am giving only three gifts. So take that you, you big bully commercialism. I am giving to the three children in my life who deserve to know the Christmas’ that I had as a child, and the joy of opening gifts. Auntie Renae will not disappoint.
Then without fail, I am reminded of my upcoming surgery and the spell of the spirit is momentarily destroyed; but not for long. Christmas isn’t just another day that my family celebrates, but a time of tradition and a reminder of, well, who we are as a family. The girls have learned to expect a big double batch of homemade chili beans and eggnog; last year I added the ham and I think the rolls. There will be laughter, and there will be arguing, and then laughter again. It is Christmas after all, I'm not going to sugarcoat it.
In days gone by, it was just the three of us, and they were little, so the single batch of hot chili with melted cheese and crackers was sufficient while I attempted to put them in matching dresses, even though there was no company in site trudging up to knock on our front door. I took many memorable pictures and for 18 years my only request was that they sat on Santa’s lap so that I could display 18 years of Santa photos with pride. They have never let me down.
Fortunately, the family has grown with dogs and cats and boyfriends and friends and our tradition continues…only I had to throw in the ham and rolls and actually call it dinner, sort of. I love Christmas because it is a tradition that we have built over the years. I never knew that the time and angst I put into the details over the years would become the traditions my children love and look forward to as adults. See, we groom them for later years, while we fuss and worry, and sneak around the house at 4:00 a.m. hoping they won’t hear the sound of Santa filling their stockings – we are actually making memories that will live with them forever. What seemed at times obligatory and overwhelming, turned into so much more.
Yet, three days after Christmas, I will be in a hospital room awaiting the fate of my future to be determined. Will the cancer have spread? Will I need chemotherapy? What stage am I? Will I be one of the lucky ones to celebrate Christmas for years to come, while watching my family grow and adding a bigger ham, making a triple batch of chili, and watching my grandchildren tear open their own gifts in delight…or will I be faced with a reality that I am not ready to face? I have enjoyed 50 Christmas’s after all. Am I asking too much to want 50 more? God let me have 50 more. I promise I will always love Christmas, even the chaos of the holiday, if you will only give me 50 more. Okay, I’ll take 20, we’ll go with 20; but if it’s only 10 that you're willing to give me, that’s okay too, but that’s my lowest offer.
No one ever really knows when their time will come, and I think that’s a good thing because, there is a sense of bliss in being able to take life for granted. This year, I have been stripped of that bliss and have come face to face with the fear of my own mortality, and I am holding on ever so tightly. I will sing and laugh and rejoice and celebrate Christmas as though it is my last and I will bask in the moments…and then I will cry without doubt because that’s what I do when I’m grateful. And I will be ever so grateful to God and the Universe and whatever powers that be, that no matter how many more I may have, I am celebrating another Christmas, right here, right now….and oh how I LOVE Christmas. Yes, I do. And I am ever so thankful.
Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,