Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ghost of Christmas Past / Chapter 15 Excerpt

For many children, Christmas is a time of year filled with wonder and excitement . . . it's Jesus birthday and Santa Claus is coming!  Pine trees are dragged indoors to be decorated.  Strings of colored lights transform a normal house into a magical castle.  The children's anticipation is electric! 

Joy and laughter dominate our TV screens.  Polished white smiles coax us to spend more than we should as we scramble to find the perfect gift for each name on our list.  Others show beautiful people dressed in stunning outfits attending lavish parties.  This is what we strive for . . .    

Everything appears perfect!

This is what we see and are made to believe.  But for many, these images are far out of reach and simply crumble at their feet.

Holidays can trigger memories to slip to the surface when least expected.  We each walk our separate path in life, which leaves indeliable footprints from the past.  Many we cherish and share with family and friends.  Yet there are others we'd like to forget.  Certain holidays can bring back strong feelings, depending on the path we've traveled.

Right now, you can probably recall your happiest holiday ever.  But also, maybe another you wish you could forget . . . like an elephant standing in the corner.

For me, I desire to dwell on happy, simpler times, shared mostly with my children.  Their innocence and goodness gave my life meaning when times were difficult . . . .

"Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way."          -  Douglas Pagels

Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, shows the best of times and the worst of times for one ordinary couple. The mystery of falling in love, the clumsiness of courtship, and the struggles of a new family trying to make it work. Gradually, moments of simple joy entangled with the trials and tribulations of PTSD, become normal. 

And there were holidays . . . like the one I share below, a simple and quiet time . . . a happy memory.

December 14, 1974   
     It was eleven days before Christmas and we were off to buy a tree.  The children chased each other down the sidewalk before piling into the back of Lorne’s car, each clamoring for a seat by the window.  Their carefree giggles warmed the chilly afternoon air.  On the surface we looked like any ordinary family . . . too bad it wasn’t true. 
     “Okay kids,” Lorne shouted across the lot.  He struggled to free another tree from the huge compressed pile at his feet.  Then one broke loose; he vigorously pounded the trunk on the ground, releasing the branches.

     “Run back, and tell me if the trunk’s straight,” he called, surveying the tree up close.          

     Cory ran over to me, his pale hair flying, his cheeks flush.  “Mom, Mom, come look,” he said, tugging me by the hand.  “Can we get this one?  It’s a real good tree.” 

     His innocent wonder was like food for my soul. 

     Later that evening, Lorne sat quietly watching the children rummage through the dusty old boxes I had dragged down from the attic.  Each year they helped me trim the tree; it was our tradition.  They would hunt for treasured ornaments stored in boxes wrapped in tissue paper, calico stars and hand painted angels they had made in kindergarten; stained glass ornaments embellished with their names, made by their Aunt Karen, my sweet sister.   

     Once the last ornament was hung on the tree and baby Jesus was safe in the manger, I turned off the lights, signaling Scott to plug in the tree.  It sprang to life, fat and robust, dancing in lights.  Draped in gold garlands and layered with shiny red balls, tiny gold flutes and red velvet bows, the tree resembled a Norman Rockwell painting. 

     “Okay kids, its way past your bedtime,” I announced standing up.  “It will still be here in the morning.”

     I left Lorne staring into the twinkling tree lights while I put Tiffy to bed.
     “Mommy, when is Santa coming?” she asked, crawling under her covers.

     "In eleven days,” I replied, tucking in her blankets.  I leaned down, tweaked her nose and gave her a kiss.  “He will be here before you know it.”

     I knew the boys no longer believed but I hoped to hide it from her as long as possible.  When the boys brought up the subject trying to corner me, I simply said, “Santa doesn’t bring presents to children who don’t believe in him.” And for the time being, that worked.    

     Once the boys settled down, I kissed them goodnight and headed downstairs.  Glancing over the banister, I noticed Lorne was still fixated on the tree. 
     "A penny for your thoughts,” I said, sitting next to him. 
     Lorne turned, then reached out and took my hand.  A strange look covered his face . . .

Lesson Learned . . . my two cents

 “Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny.”
- C.S. Lewis


  1. Happy Holidays, Nancy! Thank you for sharing your lovely memories.

    I also love this quote: "Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way." - Douglas Pagels

  2. Becky - I hope your holidays were blessed as well. Thank you for your sweet words as always. I found a treasure in this quote.

    Happy New Year! I'll be attending Cork's first class, but things will be a blur from then on with my publishing day set. I'm excited to say the least . . .

  3. Thank you for this glimpse into a Christmas past Nancy. I enjoyed Christmas when my children were growing up. Now I get overwhelmed with the stress of it all and long for simpler days also. Wishing you all the best in 2012, Elizabeth.