by Paula Morris
This has been quite a year – it’s my first Christmas in my new home in Graham and the first time I “visited” my old digs in Illinois and then flew back “home” to Washington state. As a life-long resident of Illinois, it felt so backwards, and I had a momentary twilight-zone kind of feeling on the plane.
My year was filled with changes. For starters, my daughter Krista got married this year – and this from the girl who had said: “I’m never getting married!”
Well, finally at age 40, she found someone who changed her mind about that – Eric.
This happy event brought my son Adam here to Graham – all the way from Florence, Italy. He surprised us by arriving with his lovely girlfriend Sharon, whom I had never met. I hadn’t seen Adam in three years, so needless to say I cried happy tears for quite awhile.
Adam has been living in Italy for the past few years. He is an amazing artist who teaches students in his studio and has recently sold one of his line drawings for $10,000. His gift to the bride and groom was a portrait of them.
Also, it brought my oldest daughter Kim, who I hadn’t seen in a year, with her boyfriend Micah and my oldest grandson, Clayton. We didn’t have enough time to really visit during the wedding celebrations, which is why Kim purchased a ticket for me to visit her in Illinois at Thanksgiving.
An old adage declares: “Home is where the heart is.” Well, I don’t know – my heart feels at home when I am with Kim in Illinois and also feels at home when I am here in Washington. Maybe the saying should be: “Your heart is where home is?”
Looking at the notion of home on another level, our country has gone through some changes that have not been pleasant to face. So many people have been thrown out of their homes; many are suffering from joblessness, not enough food, ill health, etc. Yet, the stores continue to offer “stuff” at unbelievable prices! The rich seemingly carry on as usual – no, actually, better than ever.
Times like these make one wonder: What does Christmas really mean? Is it even a legitimate Holiday anymore?
According to the consumer mentality, Christmas is a time for “shopping, shopping, shopping!” I’ve had to stop and re-think this premise.
However, I’m on Social Security now, and having a fixed income is no fun. There is never enough money to last the month.
Recently, a neighbor friend and I went on a couple of Christmas excursions just to see what was new this year. We visited Watson’s Nursery and Holland Nursery. To say that our eyes were overloaded with baubles, bangles and beads would be a huge understatement. There was so much “stuff,” all quite beautiful, but unfortunately way beyond what I could afford. It made me feel deprived that I could not purchase even one item. Further, it made me think of all the people in our area who don’t have jobs.
From what I’ve read, I understand that one out of five people in Pierce County are on food stamps or get their food from a food bank. How must it feel to all of these people when they see all the Christmas glitter and glamour that we are inundated with? What could these people buy at the mall?
Our culture is so geared toward consumerism that it makes me wonder what happens to those of us who are forced to become non-consumers? Are we still Americans?
Further, so many people I talk to lately claim that they don’t believe in religion or Christmas as a religious holiday. Hmmm, seems like the consumer propaganda has had its effect. Isn’t the holiday named “Christ-mas?” I don’t recall it being renamed “Shop-mas” or “Buy-mas.”
So, in effect I can’t participate in the usual gift-giving frenzy this year because I’m more or less forced not to by my lack of money.
This could be a good thing though, as it challenges me to come to grips with why it has always been so important to me to give gifts.
What I really have wanted for Christmas was to give more of myself. Having been a single mother, I was always working or tired when I came home. I never felt that I had enough time with my three children. There was never enough money to buy luxuries during the year, so at Christmas I tried to make up for that by giving them lots of presents. I’m not saying that giving gifts is a bad thing, it’s just that a balance between giving “things” and giving of “self” is important.
Personally, I have had to re-define what Christmas means to me. It’s not just going to church or believing in Jesus.
Yes, it can mean giving a beautiful object that means something special to the giver as well as the receiver. But what if there is no money to buy objects? What if all the beautiful objects disappear?
Or, it could be about giving time, attention, or doing a thoughtful deed, such as when I returned from Illinois and found that my daughter had cleaned the inside of my car, and my son-in-law had built a shelf for me that I needed.
Or it could be something so caring as when my daughter Kim paid for my ticket – and then treated me to two sessions with her chiropractor to help my painful back and knees.
I have decided, and this is just me talking and not my telling you what to think, that Christmas is a celebration of hope and a sharing of the gift of self.
That’s what I want to hold onto right now, hope. I believe that everything can be different, and our world can change. We are in deep winter right now, but spring is just around the corner.
Just like in the story by C. S. Lewis, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” where the White Witch kept a tight grip on Narnia and caused perpetual winter; our world seems to be in the grip of a permanent darkness – cold and bitter. But, remember Aslan the lion, who symbolized Jesus? He broke the spell of the White Witch and brought Christmas to Narnia; the promise and hope of new life after the cold, frozen darkness of a long, endless winter.
I need to focus on what is truly important and give of my heart to that.
So, because I can’t afford to send all of you a Christmas card, I wish all of you a (very politically incorrect) Merry Christmas.
© Paula Morris December 11, 2011