January 16, 2015

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Let Christmas continue to live in our hearts

Cynthia DewesIt’s that time of year when we’re “putting away Christmas.” Not actually rejecting Christmas, of course, just storing all the holiday trappings and decorations. We’re taking our time because: a) we’re retired; and b) it’s kind of a down time with nothing special going on. There’s no hurry on this end of the holiday.

It’s always a pleasure for me to sift through the Christmas things. Almost every item has a story attached to it that reminds me of an event in our past life as individuals and also as a family. Some are painful, but thankfully most are joyful.

We’ve had wooden figures of Felix the Cat, Popeye and Olive Oyl since the beginning of our marriage because they came from my husband’s childhood home. They’re ornaments, now pretty fragile, which depict popular cartoon characters of that time, and they generate big-time nostalgia for the olden days, the really olden days, in both of us.

There are the many wreaths and bells and Christmas decorations fashioned from pipe cleaners and construction paper by our kids and grandkids. Centered in each is a sweet school photo of the gift giver at age 7 or 8, hair askew, eyes bright, smiling for the camera. More nostalgia and maybe a few happy tears.

Sad tears accompany another handmade ornament which I purchased at our parish Christmas bazaar on the very day our son, Andy, had an accident and died. The ornament is a little needlework picture of a church with “St. Monica 1985” on it. As if we’d ever forget.

Fortunately, good cheer, generosity and friendship are the theme of most of our ornaments. Many are gifts from dear friends, which we’ve gathered over the years at our annual Christmas Progressive Dinner party. They’re often signed and dated but, again, how could we forget where they came from?

Some of our ornaments are made from cheap plastic or are otherwise unimpressive to a casual viewer, but not to us. They’re the trimmings we could afford early on in our marriage when money was tight. But the sparkly birdies with chipped wings and the tacky tinsel help us to remember the pure joy of putting up our first Christmas tree together. To us, it was a remarkably beautiful sight. It still is.

We have honorary grandkids who love to give us Christmas country-style decorations they find in small-town stores and craft fairs to match our country home. So everything from rustic wreaths to patchwork angels to a little pillow that says, “Love me, love my dog,” now grace our home thanks to their thoughtfulness.

The result of all this is that we have a houseful of memories at Christmas time. Of course, we’re not impressed with the monetary value of these various decorations, nor with whatever unique places they came from or represent. Neither are we crazy about all of them, although we’d probably have to be tortured to make us admit it. Individual taste is a hard thing to figure sometimes.

So when I say we’re “putting away Christmas,” I don’t mean we’ve given up on the faith, bur just that we’re putting Christmas articles aside until next year. And we look forward to feeling the love represented in all these things, which we remember every time we take them out and every time we put them away.

We can never “put away” Christmas because Christmas doesn’t come just once a year; Christmas lives in our hearts.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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