CHRISTMAS COMES BUT ONCE A DAY…
Just listen, and you’ll see what I mean:
or read on…
Christmas does come but once a day!
I can’t keep it out of my mind.
My mother was a Christmas mother. Every holiday provided the excuse she needed for bolstering her own spirits and the spirits of those around her. Our little family on Eastwood Avenue in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was a Christmas family because of You see, Christmas was the very thing we needed most to counteract the dead of Winter, to bring light to the longest nights of the year, to give us a chance to once again believe in the idea of Spring. Without the idea of Spring in mind, how could we possibly have survived the Winter?
We kids and Mother decorated everything that didn’t move, and some things that did. Our pet dogs Brownie and Sissy might be seen running through the house decked in wreaths or gossamer aluminum icicles. The windows would be sprayed with fake snow. The plastic candles with big red bulbs shone through the fake snow to provide just the right glow to passersby.
The Christmas tree had to be somewhat democratically selected by the entire family as we trudged through the cold woods near Uncle Pat McGee’s home in Peterson, Alabama. It wasn’t really a Christmas tree if it didn’t have to be lugged through what seemed like miles of forest to our waiting Willys automobile. It wasn’t really a tree if we didn’t later find pine or fir needles in our underwear, if we didn’t get our fingers sticky with resin that couldn’t be removed voluntarily. It couldn’t be called a Christmas tree unless half the needles had fallen off by New Year’s Day. Those needles were necessary to remind us in the middle of July— when we were still finding them under the sofa and in our socks—that, yes, another Christmas just might come one day.
Every part of Christmas was special to Mother and us kids. We got the tree up and decorated as early as possible and sometimes did not take it down till February was threatening to occur.
And every decoration counted, every decoration was sacred.
There were cheap plastic Baby Jesuses and velvet-clothed Santa Clauses, bakelite angels and glassy angel hair strands, small ceramic Snoopies and brown-paper handmade stars, miniature mangers and stockingcapped elves, tin whistles and school-pasted wooden shards with glitter applied, strung popped popcorn necklaces and varnished mummified cookies.
Mother’s fireplace mantle was fully and carefully decorated and arranged with a mixture of kids’ handcrafted stuff and store-bought doodads. The front and back doors were decorated, the lawn was bedecked, even the bathroom door was all Christmassed-up.
Christmas was a yearlong idea, a monthlong project, an intense array of garlands and gewgaws, clutter and array. So much was put into Christmas that the images stayed with you all year long and in fact all life long.
Every and each time I smell ginger or apples or vanilla or pine or baking dough or roasting pecans, Christmas comes back to me in a second. Each time I pass an ornately dressed bungalow in a tiny neighborhood, it all comes back. Every time I hear the old carols, whenever I look up in the frozen winter to see a bright star or two, whenever I see the gleam in a child’s eye, Christmas comes back to me.
Christmas comes but once a day.
When the very idea of Christmas, the very idea of unselfish giving, the very idea of warm family gatherings and sharings…when these things die from our lives, won’t we all die a bit, too? When the soul goes flat from lack of sweet remembrance, the world will be declared flat, too.
Thanks to you, Mother, I can hold on to Christmas even when there’s nothing visible to grab hold of *
© 2014 A.D. by Jim Reed
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