Is this the season for forgetting? Single parents juggling employment, household duties, and child care. Military veterans. Senior citizens whose spouses and/or children are no longer around. Lonely folks in nursing homes. International college students staying alone in campus housing. Addicts in recovery centers. Inmates in prison. Foster children waiting for parents. Homeless people of all descriptions.
Your response might be the following: “Vivian, it’s all I can do to take care of my own responsibilities. Why are you attempting to put a guilt trip on me?”
Appalachian poet and professor James B. Goode, originally from Benham, Kentucky, shares one of his Christmas poems from his anthology “The Twelve Days of Christmas”:
This poor family
Had nothing but the land,
The rocky hillside
Full of pines,
In those snowbound times…
But every year
They went with axe and saw
To bring the Christmas home,
And every year
The forest in their house,
Saw the maker
In the design
And in their humble way
Filled their desperate lives
With the hope
Can you or your family members spare one hour to make a positive difference in the life of one or more of “others” this season? A plate of cookies. A basket of fruit. Some conversation. A small gift.
My friends have gifted me with their memories — and I’m passing their words on to you:
Did you search the house to find hidden presents before Christmas? Sharon Williams of Airdrie, Alberta, Canada, did when she was four or five years old and the family had moved to a new home. Snooping in the basement, she discovered a doll buggy. She ran up to tell her mother who said, “That belongs to the little girl who used to live here.” Sharon was disappointed until Christmas morning. Surprise!
The family of Peter Barberio of Missoula, Montana, was surprised as well when Peter was four years old and they discovered on Christmas morning that he had arisen early and unwrapped every present under the tree. Carnage!
Karen Wallace of Apple Valley, Minnesota, remembers ribbon candy and chocolate drops which bring back sweet memories of her father. And Jeremy Scott Dunham of Piqua, longs to bring back the tradition of extended family gatherings with fried chicken, fried bread, and his mother’s delicious sweet potatoes.
June Crofts of Sun City Center, Florida, recalls the family sitting around the table with bags of unshelled nuts using nutcrackers and pics to uncover the morsels and her mother freezing 7-Up or Sprite in ice cube trays and adding red and green cherries to each cube.
For Jennifer Cassim Farmer of Harlan, Kentucky, Christmas memories are of her Nanna shipping boxes of navel oranges and grapefruits from Florida each year to 16-plus Harlan County families and calling to tell them to get to the post office and “pick them up before they ruin.” Jennifer recently bought five navel oranges for $5 at a local grocery!
Paula Dotson Frew of Sidney, remembers baking and decorating sugar cookies with her mother, and Nancy Brumbaugh Metz of Piqua, has a special sense of “Grandma May making Christmas pudding in a large three-section steaming pan and popcorn balls with black walnuts.”
Susan Armour of Montezuma, Ohio, always looked forward to “one of Amina ‘Billie’ Brown’s boys bringing over a plate of Christmas cookies and Aunt Eleanor’s peanut butter fudge.”
Some caution us to forgo the nuts and marshmallows and canned yams as does Tammy Hutchins Ritz of Troy, and simmer sweet potatoes all day in brown sugar and water.
Hospitals don’t close on Christmas, and Kathi Langston Wagner of Piqua, remembers getting up at 4:30 on Christmas days when her mother, a nurse, worked. While the kids were opening presents, her mom was in the kitchen making cinnamon rolls.
For Robert and Susan Headley of Springfield, Ohio, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches make Robert think of “hacking coughs, burning fevers, and Christmas guilt” because that’s what they served their young daughter, Caitlin, the year they had the flu on Christmas.
In lieu of foods, Diana Berlin of Beavercreek, shared with me the excitement she felt when she was 10 years old and received a Merriam-Webster dictionary for Christmas, “Words have always nourished me.”
May you be nourished and may your holiday season be filled with the family, friends, and food that bring you pleasure.
While you are celebrating, consider setting aside an hour to bring joy into the life of someone who wants/needs you. I’m keeping my four Christmas trees up until my son returns from working in Colorado so that we can celebrate Christmas a second time — together.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.