I'm still battling the arthritis in my right hand, and the infection caused by a knife-weilding physicians assistant. My Christmas present to myself was paying doctors bills. At least I can still use my hands.
The more I love the holidays, the more I realize how stressful and sad they can be. I don't have a remedy; I'm assaulted by memories myself, good ones, but sad and poignnant. My best friend who loves to collect Christmas ornaments, too, feels the same. We are coping with getting older, and with elderly parents who have their own issues, most not dealing with dementia or the usual cliches we may associate with the very old. Mostly, it is not having people we love with us, and learning everyday that someone else we love is ill or facing difficulties. A good book for these feeling is The Christmas Cookie Club by Perleman, where 12 women in a cookie club share more than just recipes.
This year, I am late with everything. I haven't even baked my mother's recipes. That is the one thing that has given some solace since I lost her. It is hard to take each year, and each holiday that takes me further from her, but I have my own family. My Dad just doesn't believe in Christmas, or its accourtrements any more. My husband's family buried my brother in law one Christmas Eve twenty years ago. I've lost many friends this year, a beloved pet, Opie, and yet, the spirit of Christmas will not die within me.
If nothing else, the ghosts of Christms Past come alive again. I am with my grandparents, and opening my first Chatty Cathy. It's December 9th, and my friend Lynn and I are playing the guitar and singing "Eres Tu" for the Pan American Roundtable Dinner. I'm 15, and it's the 14th of December and I'm at my first gymnastics meet. My best friends, Robin and Mike, the "bums," are watching. I stay one the beam and take first for our side, compete in three events, and all is right with the world. I'm 8 or 9, and Miss Bolin and Miss Meurling are coordinating our Christmas Program at school. I'm ten, and excited, about to board a plane for my first Christmas in San Jose. I'm 12, and I see my Uncle George at 30, walking away from us as we board the plane home, wearing his leather boots, his fringed vest, cigarette in hand. It would be the last time I would see him alive. So many memories.
The best involve presents we made for each other. Or, the Chgristmases my Uncle Tom was with us, p;icking me up to go to our A&P for the delicacies we loved and no one else did. One Christmas, my Aunt Rose made me a china headed doll; my mom made her a wardrobe. That Valentines Day, her twin arrived from Disneyland. One year, my surprise was a small collection of antique dolls bought from and some given by, our dear friend Violet. I still arrange the dolls shemade around my tree.
The best gift exchanges for me invovle small gifts, handmade or ornaments. I have done oranges with cloves, special collages or paintings, felt applique, needlepoint, small weavings. I love to look for the dollar presents that are worth much more, or the small collectible no one expects. I wrote coupons for doing dishes, and looked for the handmade ornaments Mom made and hung on the tree. Through New Years, we looked for them, and opened them to find tiny presents, coins, the occasional dollar bill. The whole house was lovely, and transformed.
This Christmas, I'm noticing and looking for books on how to live green as a family. There are many this year and an Amazon search proves quite fruitful. I would urge everyone to use a potted tree that can be replanted, or to recycle your cut trees. We used to do this using the ravine/woods behind our house. The birds nested in our old trees, and some became natural mulch. I like artificial trees; less of a fire hazard, and a live one is not cut down. I have natural holly bushes, and they are my pride this time of year. It is fun to make one's own wrapping paper, or to use unusal boxes, papers, and ribbons. We used to save real satin ribbon and sometimes combined them with newspapers.
It doesn't have to bankrupt ups; it really is the thought. I give ten cent used paperbacks and book catalogs to my students, and little ornaments and gifts. We study winter holidays all over the world and exchange cut out toys and paper dolls that are free web printables. Some of my friends love book marks, others a plate of cookies.
It doesn't take much to make someone happy. There are dried flowers and natural evergreens everwhere, and seedpods, macaroni, yarn, and even ice cream cones and construction paper make great ornaments. I'd love to hear some ideas from people out there. Merry Christmas, and Seasons Greetings. May we have peace in 2012.
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