Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmases Then and Now

On Christmas Day, about 25 years ago, we opened some gifts from an office friend and found three Santa hats.

It had been a lean year. I think that may have been the year I sold a gold ring to buy a Christmas tree and Christmas dinner.

She had wrapped what at the time I thought was a load of crap so the boys would have stuff to open. Paper clips? Postits? But they DID enjoy the unwrapping, and laughing over the triviality. And they loved the hats. They put them on. I can still remember how cute the youngest was in his hat, both of them chuckling.

But I was full of bitterness. Overflowing with it. I felt pitied, not loved. Sometimes kindness can be the deepest cut of all.

And I, without benefit of chemicals or anything alcoholic, went berserk.

What I remember, what we all remember and can now laugh about, was that I ran into the kitchen for my treasured best scissors (wonder what happened to those? can't find those anymore) and I began to cut that hat up into many, many pieces. Which I then threw on the floor and jumped-jumped! -up and down on repeatedly. Presumably noisily.

I have never behaved so before or since in my life.

I didn't touch THEIR hats. No, no. But do you think they wore them the rest of the day?
I still remember a glimpse of the bewildered, hurt, frightened youngest son, about 6, taking off his hat.

And since no permanent insanity, nor drugs, nor alcohol was involved, the rest of Christmas Day went on pleasantly. I hope. There was a witness. A lifelong friend of my oldest was there and apparently marveled.

I still remember how good it felt to go berserk. To jump up and down on those scraps of hat. But I hurt my family. They have long since forgiven me and laughed about it. Recently, so have I.

For a long time, it rankled.

Christmas hats became an icon for my lack of control over what happened at the holidays, both what I couldn't control in my life, and what I did when I reacted. As such, I wasn't fond of them.

I thanked the co-worker again, and she was so pleased she sent more stuff the next Christmas. No Santa hats, though, because we had those, didn't we? Did I ever confront her? No, I didn't. Even then, I had the sense to understand she truly meant well. I think my Nana used to say something about not slapping the outstretched hand even when you wanted to.

Life went on. I gained a little wisdom.

Despite a graduate degree, I have never chosen work that pays well. It has been fulfilling. Meaningful. And we always had enough.

I'm retired now. I still work, but for free. And I have come to realize, I not only have enough, but more than enough. When you add the wealth of family I really love and like to be with and friends, ditto, I am actually filthy rich.

All these years later, I look back at that berserker woman with amusement at what she still had to learn. Bitterness grows no fruit. Love does. I forgave both her and myself. That's what I mean when I say I gained a little wisdom.

Today, I bought two Santa hats for my granddaughters, who both have performances upcoming requiring holiday gear. They look adorable.

Heck, I may go back and get a Santa hat for me.


clairz said...

Oh, my. You are so honest. I can't help but think that a lot of other things were having their effect on you before the Santa-stomping incident. Oops, Santa hat stomping incident, I mean.

This post, as are all of yours, is very thought-provoking to me. It makes me want to think back over all my Christmases and look for the things that either made them difficult or particularly joyous.

Actually, after that exercise, I realize that I find my joy in all the little things every day. That practice has helped me let go of any big expectations for the holidays. I still welcome the moments of beauty, but I just don't expect them, if that makes sense.

Yes, maybe you will buy yourself a Santa hat. I think that would be an act of courage! Or perhaps an elf hat might have fewer memories attached. ;)

charlotte g said...

clairz, if you check back, skim the post again, because I held out some things I added a few minutes ago for more honesty.

A friend of mine once told me all Christmases aren't great, or how would we remember the special ones?

I was so at my worst that year. In a way, it was a special one. The sons love to tease me about it.
And today, when my son learned I bought his daughters Santa hats, we exchanged not a word, but he grinned. He got it.

charlotte g said...

Clairz, I was so anxious to tell you what I had said I didn't listen carefully to you. Your comment about the joys in the little things every day, the welcoming, not expecting, makes perfect sense.
The blessings come. All the time. We don't know which ones, but if we don't notice, it is as if they hadn't arrived. Don't want to miss a one.

clairz said...

See? We should be sitting at the same table, having cups of tea and hashing all this out.

charlotte g said...

You know, I may have to head your way and learn what I always took for granted. I'm guessing I have knee surgery next summer, but sometime.I'm proud to have you as a New Mexican. BTY, I now have an equipped spare bedroom. You are welcome any time. D-FW, north, Hmm. poor fixins for the husband.

clairz said...

Well, thank you, Charlotte. We have a guest bedroom that you could stay in, too.

And if you have any questions about knee surgery, I have two fake knees that I love dearly and that have given me back my life.

J.R.Shirley said...



charlotte g said...

Back atcha.

charlotte g said...

Back atcha.

Matt G said...

I remember that day and remember how I was mildly embarrassed, but understood your furor at being pitied. It had felt like a declaration of your failure.

You started the work, by the way, with a super-cheap Chinese-made wood-handled filet knife that had come in the package of Dollar Store wrapped gifts. It pierced the hat pretty well, but couldn't cut it. Then you went to get the shears from the drawer by the phone.

I never was able to get that piece of garbage knife to take an edge, either.

charlotte g said...

My dear, dear.
The best aftermath of that long-ago Christmas is that you are the fine man you are today.
I didn't hurt the vital parts. That makes me smile.