Christmas is coming! And, unless you're a total Grinch whose heart is two sizes too small, you are glad that it is!
The only exception I know to the Grinch Rule was my Grandma Ruth. Big-hearted to a fault and once a lover of all things Christmas, the first hint of a change in her holiday spirit came when she was in her late 80s and still residing in her small Kansas town. "A group of young people from church came to sing carols to me," she reported happily when I telephoned her a couple of weeks before Christmas.
So far, so good. But when I called a few days later, she was indignant that the church bulletin " which she and two elderly female friends voluntarily folded and mailed to parishioners each week " contained an announcement that the youth group had serenaded community shut-ins.
"Shut-ins!" she exclaimed. "I'm not a shut-in! Where'd they get the idea that I'm a shut-in?"
A few years later, Grams " only three months shy of 91 " lived in a Lawrence nursing home, where numerous well-meaning individuals and organizations began serenading residents and bringing them small gifts shortly after Thanksgiving. On one of my daily visits, I casually remarked to Grams, "Christmas is next week."
"WHAT?" Grams asked incredulously, "Isn't it over YET?"
I couldn't believe she was the same woman who handed three big boxes to my sisters and me when we visited our grandparents one long-ago Christmas Day. As we tore into the Santa-bedecked wrappings, Grams told mom and dad in a stage-whisper, "I bought them galoshes."
Our faces fell. "But, Grandma, we already HAVE galoshes."
The boxes actually contained beautiful dolls with long curly hair " blonde for me, brunette for Lesta and a redhead for Bette. I, who rarely played with dolls, LOVED that doll. But what little girl wouldn't when the alternative was galoshes?
I can't imagine that the day will come when Christmas won't be magic for me. I certainly hope it doesn't. I love everything about the season ... even the annual fight husband Ray and I have about the Christmas tree.
I'll never understand how a man who guesstimates most measurements within a quarter of an inch will insist that a tree 15 feet tall can fit in the 10 foot high space reserved for it in front of our dining room windows. Our bickering about tree height and girth once so unnerved a tree farm owner that he gave me several cups of hot spiced cider containing a secret ingredient " which I later learned was grain alcohol " that mellowed me considerably.
It takes us three days to decorate the tree, but that's OK because I like to take my time appreciating each ornament: the more-paste-than-paper creations our sons made in grade school, special ornaments from friends, fragile and cherished decorations from our parents' and grandparents' trees, souvenir ornaments that document our travels and even the shiny (and sharp) metal spirals which Ray's uncle, a sailor killed in World War II, crafted from coffee cans. I love it when the tree is finally decorated and Ray and I admire it from the living room while sipping cocoa and munching on homemade holiday goodies.
I also love shopping for presents, though I consistently wait until the last minute and " even on those rare occasions when I have completed my shopping " I still find a reason to visit stores right before they close on Christmas Eve. Customers and clerks alike are smiling because the end of the season is in sight and home and family are waiting. Everyone wishes everyone else a Merry Christmas ... and means it. Add a bit of falling snow as I walk to my car and, for me, the evening is absolutely perfect!
Although I greatly enjoy the rural area where we now live, I miss a Christmas delight I took for granted in our former neighborhood. For many years, neighbors Harry and Mary, along with their children, braved the cold and often waded through deep snow to serenade us with carols celebrating the Yuletide season.
One bitterly cold Christmas Eve as Ray and I, snug and warm inside our home, watched the singers' exhalations fog the night as they trilled "Joy to the World," I was grateful that " just for that one evening " we could undeniably be classified as shut-ins!
I wish you a holiday filled with love and joyful music. Merry Christmas!
" Marsha Henry Goff is a free-lance writer in Lawrence. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.