The last towel has been washed, dried, folded and put away – the same with the sheets, blankets and fuzzy wraps – and I’m exhausted! I’ve definitely reached the age where the body can’t keep up with the level of tradition that the spirit wants to maintain. There were moments during the prep for Saturday’s family Christmas dinner that I wondered if I’d make it. Where has my stamina gone??? Thank goodness for a little after dinner caffeine – it went a long way to keeping me on my feet!
As I collapse now eating leftovers, I think back on my four days of Christmas. I’m embarrassed to say I started Christmas Eve with a bit of a pity party because I was alone. I don’t recall ever being alone on Christmas Eve – unless you count 10 years ago when I was on a ventilator in CCU. While I remember bits of conversations from visitors and bizarre dreams from those life-saving drugs during those two weeks, I don’t remember Christmas Eve.
This year I went to the 6 p.m. Christmas Eve service and snapped out of my melancholy once I began focusing on the reason for the season but while waiting, looking at the couples and family units, I really missed my late husband’s arm around me – that comforting, protective act husbands often do during church.
Sitting here, I realize I’ve experienced a lot of Christmases but I can’t say I remember every one with great clarity. There was always tradition but the tradition changed as I aged from a child to a mom of small children, then grown children and finally to a grandmother.
As a child, my mom, dad and I always went to my Nanaw’s and Bepaw’s house on 29th and Sims in Bryan and, after he died, to her little house on Aspen Street in College Station. I was the only grandchild for about 12 years and my mom and her brothers would take me to shoot fireworks at a place they called the “clay pits” so my dad could work his Santa magic. I know this will surprise some of you (or maybe not) but I was an easily “excitable” child. In fact, I was beside myself Christmas Eve and that excitement was exacerbated whenever I heard Gene Autry sing “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Later, in a stage of life that I thought would last forever, Christmas Eve consisted of carefully and quietly laying out G.I. Joes, Big Jim and Barbie campers, cap guns, Baby Alive, doll beds and carriages, Big Wheels, bicycles, lots of Fisher-Price toys, along with books, one or two battery operated barking puppies and eventually cassette tapes, Outback Red sweaters and parachute pants.
I particularly remember Christmas Eve 1975. We had just moved back to Texas from Colorado at Thanksgiving and I was exhausted with four children, ages 8, 5, 2 and eight months. There I was at 2 a.m., locked in the master bathroom sitting on the toilet finishing the last of the hand-embroidery on my husband’s blue chambray shirt. Does anyone besides my sister-in-law Linda remember the embroidery shirt fad?
And my husband? Well, he was out in the garage putting together a little kitchen for our girls which he said would be the last kitchen he’d assemble because it was the hardest thing he’d put together - ever!
That was also the Christmas Eve that 5-year old Stacy just knew she saw Rudolph in the Carrolton sky. It was actually a red blinking light on a nearby tower – but funny, it wasn’t usually visible from our house…hmmm.
Fast forward to Christmas 2021 and I privately wonder if I’ll be around for the next Christmas. I truly get it now why the grandmothers in my life wanted to see their families together at least once a year. I’m not perfect. My husband, kids and grandkids aren’t perfect, by whatever definition perfect is, but in the scheme of life, they are my greatest accomplishment. I get great pleasure just sitting back, watching them play cards or board games together. I call that my “Grandmother’s Reward!”
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.