I grew up Catholic with the tradition of the birth of Jesus celebrated on December 25 of each year. I remember several Christmas holidays spent at my grandparent’s home in upstate New York. For the Christmas dinner, I sat at the children’s table next to the grownup’s dining table, with my two brothers. Our table was a folding card table. The same one we played Chinese checkers on. I loved the feeling of togetherness with my aunts, uncles and cousins. The house was filled with an energy of closeness.
The years my family lived in Florida, we celebrated Christmas with a live Christmas tree. Decorating the tree was a family tradition. My dad strung the colored lights and placed the angel on the top branch. My mother handed us the glass ornaments to place on the tree. Silver tinsel was placed one piece at a time. We hung cellophane wrapped candy canes on the tree branches. We didn’t have store bought Christmas stockings. We used my dad’s large wool socks and taped them to the large television set cabinet because we didn’t have a fireplace or a mantel to hang them from.
I can still remember the feeling of excitement when my dad started “putting up” the Christmas decorations on the walls of the living room. They were made of white styrofoam, shiny ribbons and glitter. There were four 3-foot long candy canes and one that spelled “Merry Christmas”.
As a family, we watched “Rudolph The Rednose Reindeer”, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and of course, “The Macy’s Christmas Day Parade”, on TV, on Christmas morning.
I enjoyed attending Christmas Mass at midnight with my mom. The church was always filled with people. The area behind the altar was decorated with colored lighted trees and a manger scene of the Holy Family.
My brothers and I always woke up before my parents on Christmas morning to see the Christmas packages under the tree. When I was seven, in New York, my first bicycle was sitting outside the back door of the house, white snow falling on it.
My mother always prepared a delicious feast for Christmas. Served at two in the afternoon, we ate ham or turkey, dressing, vegetables, rolls, and pie for dessert. We had plenty of Christmas cookies and fudge.
I believed in Santa Claus until a friend of mine in the fourth grade, told me on the school bus, my parents are Santa. “There is no Santa Claus”. I was very disappointed. I sat there quietly and said to myself, “At lease I have the Easter Bunny!” I believed in the Easter Bunny longer than I did about Santa! I did confront my mom and she told me the truth about Santa. I didn’t discuss the Easter Bunny because I wasn’t ready to handle the truth. It felt good about believing in the fantasy.
Since my childhood, I’ve grown up and now understand that Christmas isn’t about shopping, material gifts and the hectic frenzy about finding that great sale at the store. My Christmas each year is a journey inward. On Christmas Eve I meditate and focus on the love and peace within my heart. I send that vibration out to everyone in the world and out to the Cosmos. And even though I do this throughout the year, it’s my gift I give to myself, because I know I’m connected to everyone, everything, and God/Creator/Great Central Sun.
This year my dad is in a memory care facility. It’s a double locked facility because elders with dementia don’t remember where they are and all they want to do is to go home. Remembering what my dad did for us children each Christmas by decorating the house, I bought a small tree and decorated it with bulbs and tiny colored lights that are battery operated. A gold star decoration sits at the top of the tree. My siblings brought more trees and decorations so his room is filled with the memories of Christmas. It’s our attempt to help remind him he’s not alone and that we still love him.
The other day, while visiting my dad after arranging the logistics and overseeing the delivery of a new queen size bed for him, I held my mom in my arms as she cried that he had to be apart from her. You see, the care of someone with dementia is so hard on the caregiver (usually a spouse) that the caregiver is the one that dies before the one with dementia. The stress and strain of caring for a person who’s brain malfunctions is just too much. This is why many early baby boomers are now going into assisted living facilities. In the greater Phoenix area, right now assisted living is a booming business.
I hope you cherish your family, your loved ones, your pets, and yourself to feel the peace within all that is.
Blessings and love,
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