Friday, December 18, 2009

Seeing Christmas

For most of us Christmas is photographed and filed, but never left for long to gather dust. We see Christmas in real as well as imaginary albums.

1997's pictures show the first celebration for my youngest grandchild. The stars weren't limited to the tree. As it happens every time we have a new baby in the family, those eyes twinkled in the hearts of all of us, as we relived our own first-remembered Yuletide through the stars in the new child's eyes. I ran back down the years and reached out with little-girl arms to hear again a dear old great-grandmother whispering in my little-girl ear, "Now, don't forget." Before regressing quite so far, I had other, "visions" with not a sugar plum in sight. I saw holidays slipping past, with different, "youngest" grandchildren laughing merrily at some grand, shimmering tandenbaum. And further back to my own babies. How clearly I can see them toddling by in their sailer suits and ruffled dresses.

Through irridescent, wintry clouds of splendor, through times of trouble and hearts we would swear were broken beyond recycling; through falling snow flakes, rain drops and hopes, December 25th keeps coming. A few soft words inhabit northern winds, "Now, don't forget...." I see Christmas when hugging a friend I have had since girlho9od. We did our shopping, "downtown" before malls were anything but big hammers. With fur-lined boots and parka's we walked past store-fronts festooned with greens and colored lights. Carols poured forth from overhead speakers far above us and we talked about "Little Women's" Jo who sold her hair to buy a present for her mother. We couldn't wait to begin purchasing gift with our allowances. It snowed for days that winter, and I foun d a sled under the Christmas tree. But just before I went to sleep on Christmas Eve I heard that whisper, "Now, don't forget..."

I see Christmas when I think of my parents and grandparents...remembering gifts of Nancy Drew myteries, ice skates, bicycles,scooters, dolls and even a small bright red kiddy car when I was four-years old. I see a sweet-faced aunt touch my cheek and say softly, "Now, don't forget..."

Different days with grow-up presents came too quickly, at least in retrospect. Then one December 7th, and for a long few years the world wasn't sure there would be more Christmases. But, of course there were, along with lockets and high-heeled slippers, and Evening in Paris perfumes. I had an uncle in France on one of those holidays, who would have traded his evening in Paris for most anybody. He was carrying a rifle through mud up to his knees and hadn't been able to change his socks for weeks. Still, I heard it yet again, "Now, don't forget..."

Some people say, "That is more than I care to remember." Not me. Every one is a gift to acknowledge and recall.; even the years I made the biggest fool of myself--the most colossal errors in judgement. Christmas is always there at the end to bring about healing when we remember what this day is all about. Sooner or later this season, I will be bending over a small bed, touching a soft cheek and whispering," Now, don't forget...Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Old Christmas Carols

Old age--from my point of view--has one thing going for it this time of year. I have a huge stock pile of Christmases to remember every evening just before falling into a short nap in my recliner. As it stands now, I have much clearer memories of those 30 years ago than I do the one last December. As time rolls on my recollections seem to move further back with each year. If it keeps going this way one of these winters I will experience vivid scenes from my very first Christmas, at age five-months while forgetting to put the lights on the tree THIS year. It just goes that way in life and the longer we are allowed to live, the more there is to forget about yesterday and to recall about the far past. There is that wonderful thing that happens to us oldsters. (I'm 78) we are given the gift of remembering incidents that happened many decades ago. My mom was still recalling songs from the far past just before she went to the Lord at age 94.
To get a bit serious, there are some slow moving, yet relentless machines at work to plow under some of our oldest traditions. The trappings and scenes of Christmas, and some people's attitudes have changed from the times of my youth. I hate to have to say it, but they haven't added anything positive that I can see. The greatest thing about this special day of December 25th is that it doesn't matter what we humans do or don't do about it; it will go right on being celebrated as the birth of the Savior in the hearts of millions. There is an astonishing phenomenon working its way through the country right now--a movement we couldn't have imagined on ly a few short years ago. There are those who would be much more contented if the whole Christmas thing would go away. It seems to worry them a great deal, particularly the spiritual aspects of the season. Even the decorated tree has become forboding enough to cause some of them to change its name to something less threatening than,'The Christmas Tree."
I have heard it said that the more fanatical people become the more ridiculous they become. Maybe so. As far as that goes, there are those who would call me a fanatic because I am a Christian. My Christianity is not just a bi-product of being born in America, and it isn't a religion; it is a relationship with Christ..not to get excited please, my soap-box is nowhere in sight. I am not a, "Bible Thumper." But, I do cringe to hear unbelievers explain what goes on in My heart and mind as a Christian. When they attempt to do so, it is so obvious they haven't a clue as to who we are. And hey; I don't expect them to. After some research of the different movements afoot that would squash all reverences to Christianity. It almost seems silly, but, of course, it isn't.
Perhaps the traditions could be made to disappear from the American scene over time, but I don't believe it would have much of a spiritual impact. They might do away with the Nativity scenes, rename the town-square trees, change the words to "Silent Night" --as one school already has--not allow Christmas songs at the school pageants, let the retailers tell their personnel not to greet their customers with the apparently dangerous statement of, "Merry Christmas" and it woudn't matter one iota to the faith that can move mountains. It isn't often that I splash around in the political pond, and actually don't feel that I am getting my feet wet right now. But, you know what? I just had to say something about the attacks on Christmas.
No one knows the date of Christ's birth. The 25th of December is just the day that was decided on to celebrate what was a wondrous day for believers. But it isn't necessary for our faith. Neither are, "Silent Night" or the stable with the baby in the hay. We can get along nicely without, "O' Tannenbaum, the school programs with no references to Christmas, the carolers, and all the rest. Our faith and worship is based on something immovable and unchangeable. Still, how perilous can it be to be wished a, "Merry Christmas?"
*The picture with this posting is part of the remains of a very old song book I found in a second-hand store. It has all but turned to dust. I love it...MERRY CHRISTMAS

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mistake in last posting

I left out an important word in last post. The word, "regret" was left out of last sentence. It should read, "He surely did shiver that night, but there was a warm spot somewhere near the area of his heart that kept REGRET from getting in at all.

I don't know how to correct it....sorry


One cold night a stranger came calling

In 1930 , December came puffing and blowing, dumping immence skies full of snow over Puget Sound. Numbing Arctic winds finger-painted the scene with silvery strokes and on one particular snow-filled morning a Western Washington farming community went about its business. at 10:30 a.m. a mournful, drawn-out whistle led a swaying freight train out of the deep forest to halt at the wooden water tower where it would spend an hour- and-a-half taking on a fresh supply

Thus begins a true-to-life tale.


The trains carried the men from one ocean to the other, then back again; men who had taken to the open road for one reasons or another. Some were good men, some maybe not so good, but a large number were husbands and fathers striving to come through for the families waiting at home. Finding even the bare requirements of dood on a daily basis was a challenge. Every day hundreds of down-at-the-heels men app;roached hundreds of back doors across the country hoping for wood to chop or ditches to dig in exchange for a meal.

Women bore their own kind of burden;months taken up with trying to fill children with scanty rations and imaginations.

LIttle old Mrs. Moore had no such worries. The modest farm produced plenty for the two of them. She and her husband Knapp, had raised their one child long ago and soon would be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. She put anothehr stick of wood in the cook stove, check on the baking bread in the oven and eased down into the waiting rocking chair.

As the train gave a long, steamy, "Sheeeeeeesh," a long man jumped down from one of the middle boxcars, pulled his tattered overcoat close around his neck and took off at a slow and cumbersome run across the frosty field.

Nearby Mrs. Moore had heard the whistle. She roused herself, put on a pot of coffee and began to slice potatoes and ham into a frying pan. He would be hurrying along now, one of the fellows who, "rode the rails" in these hard times. There was never more than one man at a time looking for a hand out at the Moore farm on the daily runs. This seemed to be the procedure amongst the travelers. Farmers in other areas reported the same routine. The elderly lady continued to work at the stove and decided she would have her visitor cut some kindling.

When the box in the woodshed was full of newly chopped kindling he took an armload and walked to the back porch. After dumping the wood into a container near the back entrance he shook the snow from his worn coat, slapped his hat against his leg and entered the country kitchen. He looked to be about 35 years-old . His face was craggy and thin, almost to the point of gauntness, with cheeks reddend by too many winter rides in icy boxcars.

She chatted of this and that, plaing dishes and utensils on the table while pointing him to the wash basin and a hanging towel.

He didn't talk much , spending his energy on the food in front of him, but nodded politely when he felt a response was necessary. His, hostess, seated at last with her own cup of coffee, thought she saw him send a fleeting glance of longing toward the tiny decorated fir tree in the dim parlor. But, if so, it was quickly suppressed. Then, as he was finishing up the last scraps of the meal she watched as his eyes wandered to the back door window. There was a large card there, suspended by a string and facing the outside.

"I know," she said, though he hadn't asked, "We can't see it from in here. I just never got around to turning it around. It's what the angels told the shepherds," 'Peace on earth, good will to men."

Her grey head turned toward the message, "Seems to me we humans get that backwards today. We keep wanting thhe peace, and all the things that go with it, without giving the good will first."

The sojourner put down the checkered napkin and asked without much interest, "What is good will anyway?"

Almona Moore massaged one arthritic hand with the other, thinking carefully about her answer. "Well, it's wanting to be helpful," she said, "It's looking for, being aware of--no, it's looking for opportunities to be giving even when it isn't so easy. It's a willingness, an attitude. Yes, that's it. It's an attitude of kindness."

The man answered, "Hmm."

Suddenly Mrs. Moore spotted a sack on the chair by the door. She rose as quickly as her 80 year-old arthritic body would allow, put her hand to her cheeck and keened, "Oh, dear my poor husband has forgotten his lunch." She glanced at the clock on the shelf. It showed 11:45, There was still time if...her visitor saw the clock also.

"You see," the woman continued frowning, "My husband had a chance to make a little money today reparing a neighbors fence, but he's not even completely over being sick and he just can't go without this meal. What in the world can I do?" The faded blue eyes looked straight at the man sitting at her table

"Well, how far away is this neighbor?"

"A mile or so down the road," was the hopeful answer as she pointed in the opposite direction from the halted train.

Rising to shrug into his coat, the man replied, "Sure do thank you for the food, Ma'am, but I can't do that. Gotta get that train. I'd have to walk clean into Tacoma otherwise."

The lady sat back down, holding tightly to the sack, and sighed, "Yes. well, goodbye then."

A gust of frigid air came in as the man went out. "So long, Ma'm. Sorry."

He walked 10 paces in the crunchy snow and stopped. Slowly, by small jerks, he turned his head and looked over his shoulder. He could see that sign as if it had a built-in light. That one word sure looked brighter than the rest. GOODWILL. He couldn't figure how he missed seeing that on his way in. He growled, "Shoot!" as if somebody was giving him an arguement, and kicked at a mound of snow. Finally he turned reluctently all the way around and began to retrace his steps. The door opened before he knocked and Mrs. Moore handed him two sacks. "Straight down this road, Son. Mr. McGreggor's place. You can't miss it. Biggest barn you ever saw. Oh, Yes, and that large bag is for you. I wrapped up that ham shank, some bread and a few winter apples for later.

The fellow shook his head and took the bags. "How did you know I'd go?"

"Just thought I saw a lot of goodwill in you young man."

"Yeah, and I'll regret it when I find myself shiverin' in somebody's haystack tonight."

"No," she said firmly, "You won't."

He surely did shiver that night, but there was a warm spot somewhere near the area of his heart that kept from getting in at all.