I have been reading a great deal about reminiscing this Christmas—especially about grandparents. Holidays contain many elements, and flashbacks are more prevalent during this season than almost any other.
Several events have happened this year that have caused me to ReThink Christmas. Not only because my church is asking me to do so, but because I need to do this. As usual one of my daughters has helped me in this endeavor.
My mother never wanted to be called any of the grandmother names. She simply wanted all of her granddaughters to call her by her given name. At first I wouldn’t allow it, but I wish I had listened.
Christmas at my childhood home was a strange time. My step-father owns a home town restaurant (in business for 37 years), and our Christmas holiday was always scheduled around the work there. My mother would decorate the Frosty Freeze. The front two windows would be small-town works of art. There would be a tree—a ceramic one with colored lights built in—sitting on top of one of the counters with fake snow underneath. Garland would hang around the facings of the doors. Every table would have a different holiday arrangement in the center. My best memories come from the festivities that happened there.
Home was a different story. We would have a tree sporadically. A themed one, of course, with all the same colored balls and white lights and icicles. One year everything on the tree was UK blue and white. This was in tribute to my family’s adoration of UK basketball. My mother had fun that year.
I remember the last tree being right in the middle of the formal living room. Yes, it was a room that you couldn’t sit in. Everything in the room was placed strategically—in many ways it was an artistic endeavor. That was the last tree I remember.
Over the years the decorations at the restaurant and at home became mangled and shoddy, so they were tossed and never replaced. And the sporadic tree trimming also fell away.
The Vaughan Christmas tree is a huge deal. There is a method, and it is the running joke with my daughters concerning me (another story). My two younger daughters and I put up the tree this year. We had fun and our evening had all the elements of tradition. We played Ray Charles and Charlie Brown’s Christmas. We held our breaths to see if the lights were right. My older daughters were not happy with us; they wanted to be a part of this event.
During the decorating I told my younger daughters about my mother’s Christmas trees and the fact that she no longer puts one up. This was so foreign to my daughters, but very little was said.
Later, we were making plans for the Christmas season—which part of the family we were going to see and when. We were planning on going to this set of grandparents’ on the 23rd. Some events occurred that changed these plans. My third daughter became visibly upset because we weren’t going on the day we had planned. I couldn’t discern why.
My home is a difficult and demanding place to visit. I thought she was dreading the trip. I thought she wanted to go on a day that we wouldn’t have to stay very long. I was wrong.
I was so wrong.
She had taken some of her own money and secretly (with the help of friends) bought my mother a small Christmas tree, ornaments, lights, and garland. She had even bought a huge Christmas Teddy bear to put under the tree because she didn’t want that space to be empty. She wanted to go on the 23rd and decorate the tree for my mother as a part of her gift. And that is why my daughter wanted to go before Christmas.
My daughter had rethought Christmas. She wanted to give my family a bright spot to look at this year. She wanted to take some of what she experiences and pass it along. She wanted them to have new memories. When she brought the tree and all the extras in and showed me, I really didn’t know what to say or do. She had gone so far beyond what I had contemplated.
She didn’t spend a lot of money (a lot for her small budget), but her heart was intertwined in everything she bought.
We will go to my hometown this year. And I will watch as she and her sisters give this gift to my mother. I know that my girls will engage their grandmother to participate. They will put a hanger on a brightly colored ball and ask her to hang it. My mother will protest and she will balk, but with her funny little smile she will tentatively place it on a limb. That will be all my mother will do, but it will be enough.
I have always loved Christmas trees, but my daughter just gave me a reason to love them more.