Brilliant orange, red and yellow fall colors, chilly breezes rustling through leaves about to fall to join many of the others on the cold ground below, sun low in the sky at 4pm, sweatshirts and flannel, icy noses, bonfires, hot chocolate, apple crisp, apple pie, apple cider…
All those lovely, cozy, comforting feelings remind me the holidays are right around the corner. Those reminders are often met with mixed feelings, smiles, sadness and sometimes, tears. Life marches on right? Well holidays are the times when most realize that and hold their loved ones a little closer. That’s how I want my holidays, and my life, to be.
This year I’ve decided, instead of sharing only moments that bring sad feelings, I am going to shine a little light on the moments that, growing up, we kids clung to. And celebrated, with gusto.
Halloween marked the beginning of the holiday festivities. In our house, however, it was not ‘celebrated’ in a way a lot of people do. There were no bloody signs, handprints, whatever streaked anywhere. There were no witches, goblins, anything that would be even slightly similar to demonic, no bar maids, murderers or sensual costumes. There were no corpses, evil black cats or screaming, howling noises. There WERE however many super cute homemade and store-bought costumes, wigs, props and makeup, spider webs hanging everywhere, carved happy face pumpkins with flickering candles, huge bowls of candy corn and pumpkins, dozens of homemade sugar cookies and cupcakes we spent hours frosting and decorating before the night of the party. Mom made up fun clues and we had to race around the house in the dark with only flashlights trying to find our treasures. There were fun games and lots of laughter. These were times when we kids could be ourselves and mom smiled and laughed and dressed up in these extravagant, outlandish, hilarious costumes.
Thanksgiving holds a few more hard memories. Often there was a focus on one of the ‘wayward’ kids so there was a gloom surrounding some of the Thanksgivings I remember. Still the glow around the holiday was there. I have fond recollections of getting up to the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade on in the living room, making mom’s famous punch of kool-aid, sprite and pineapple juice, the smell of the turkey in the oven, eating raw stuffing before the (gross) gizzards went into it, having pumpkin pie, pecan pie and jello salad for a ‘snack’ before dinner, mom’s amazing dinner rolls, asking for the last slice of cranberry sauce because it had the ridges from the can on it, making candied sweet potatoes and sitting down to a feast of all the above, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, all kinds of cooked and raw veggies, and more. We made like 3-4 of each kind of pie and had numerous tubs of cool-whip in the freezer to pull out to compliment the tops. Then we would sit down and watch either the Walton’s Thanksgiving episode, or Chester in the Thanksgiving goose. That night, other than being so fat and full of food, brought the excitement of ‘The Day After Thanksgiving’. Sometimes we would go down to the basement and drag our tree boxes up to our rooms. 🙂
The Day After Thanksgiving! Our house was strewn from basement to the second floor with boxes and boxes of bulbs, garland, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, and Christmas trees. The house truly became a winter wonderland, a magical place (especially at night) where Christmas came alive. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was glistening and wonderful. Each kid had a 6 foot Christmas tree for their room to decorate however they liked, a 7 1/2 ft tree graced both the living room and the dining room. The living room one was covered in glistening snow-like whiteness with crystal icicles and white lights. We would add glass red, gold and green or white, silver and dark blue bulbs, and multicolored lights. It was the most beautiful thing, straight out of a fairy tale Christmas land. The dining room was a fiber-optic tree that spun and played Christmas music. Some of my happiest moments were laying in my room on the floor next to my tree looking up at the lights, reflections off the bulbs and angel on top, often using the stillness of the night to hum ‘Silent Night’ while I wrote my dreams out on the pages of my journals. Even when darkness filled the house and hiding was the best option, it was always somewhere touched by the charm and celebration of Christmas and it never was quite as bad as the rest of the year.
Christmas day was a day like no other. Coming up to the holiday we made dozens and dozens of cinnamon rolls, triple iced, sugar cookies, pb kiss cookies, ginger snaps, Russian tea cakes, peanut brittle, peanut butter fudge, butterscotch pecan rolls and more. We played Christmas music, we had a schedule of what nights we would watch classic Christmas movies. My siblings and I had Christmas carol books my little sister put together and in the still of the dark evenings, we would stomp around the house in a line making sure to make it to each room with the lights out and Christmas trees on, belting each note out from the bottom of our hearts. For Christmas morning we brought cinnamon rolls upstairs the night before so we could eat them while mom read the Christmas story from the Bible before heading downstairs. She went so out of her way to make the day magical. Notes from Santa, half gnawed carrots and crumbs from sugar cookies, bowls and bowls of Reeses, Butterfinger bells, Crunch bars, Andes candies everywhere, punch in the kitchen, presents filling the living room for all day and bigger presents in the dining room for the evening. Some years she even made a big dinner to go with it, other years towards the end we would buy a big bucket of chicken from KFC and mashed potatoes and eat part of it for Christmas Eve and reheat the rest on Christmas Day. Most years, being a kid in our house on a holiday was a place like no other.
There are times I pine for those old days before the reality of what happened hits. It still is hard to understand why things worked the way they did, but who am I to question my Creator? Every day of my life I get to see the goodness in why He brought me to the place I am. Often it’s in my husband’s eyes when I delight him or make him laugh, when he goes out of his way to make me breakfast or supper, when he understands I need a hug and held, and is more than willing to say “I love you” at any time. Other times it’s in the eyes of my beautiful nieces when they run to me with open arms yelling “Aunt Tiffy!”, or tell me they don’t want me to go because they love me, or smile at me in beautiful infant innocence. Still other times it’s in the comfort of our beautiful old house, the excitement of our pup when I get home from a long days work, the smiles, laughs and comfort in having in-laws that love and delight in our family, in seeing, inspiring, understanding and hugging patients here that God’s given me for a time to encourage and uplift.
Those past times are important. They were given to me for a reason. I remember wishing so hard that the holidays would come. Everything would be better, happier, not so sad, more peaceful. In reality I know I look at those times with slightly tinted rose-colored glasses. That’s ok. It helps a broken heart to remember the good. And God does not want us to focus on the hard things of the past.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind and
reaching forward to those things which are ahead.
So I look back to the past to remember the good, to take from it lessons for my future and decidedly focus on what is ahead, going where and doing what God wants me to. And right now, I can be assured (by other verses in the Word of God) that being a wife to my husband, being a light to my little corner of the world in my workplace, and learning how to be a Godly mama someday is all in His wonderful plan for me. 🙂
I would love to hear your holiday traditions and beautiful little memories of your past! And I would be so honored if you shared special traditions you are starting or doing with your families now. I have many to pick from and Hubby and I are so excited every year to be deciding our families traditions! God bless you as we all head into this holiday season together! 🙂