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Christmastime Goes By

      At first Christmas was kind of a mystery to me.
      All the preparation and presents and decoration were fun. Grandmother would play the piano and we would sing Silent Night and Bell Bottomed Trousers.
     Then there was the latest technology: eight-millimeter family home movies. We were all the players, producing reality TV before there was such a thing.
     Through my childhood, the time with my mother and father and five siblings, the tradition endured. The movies that are the rarest of all are the ones with everyone in them.
     Even the Christmas after Mother passed, Daddy kept the magic alive. He pulled together just the right gifts for each of us; I remember thanking him every year for making Christmas special. I knew my father as a person who knew the spirit in Christmas. I know that many times, when his heart was broken and he carried a great burden, he would rest his burden and mend his heart for us at Christmas.
     After that we went happy on our own as we celebrated Christmas.
     Later in life it was a challenge to select just the right gifts for family and friends. I recall a certain girlfriend, for whom I carefully selected just the right Buxom leather wallet that stretched my budget, but I was sure she would cherish my sacrifice. I wonder if, over the years, she remembers that gift. I still see her infrequently; perhaps that would be a good topic to talk about the next time. 
     I remember when my daughter was six and questioning the Santa Claus myth. One of the other children at the Pooka School told her there was no Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, our friend, who was the perfect department store Santa, awakened her with the sound of bells and whoa Dancer and Prancer. Santa came in and dropped off a nice wooden rocking chair he’d had the elves make just for her. I was more excited with anticipation than anyone else that night. I wonder what happened to that rocker. It was another year or so before she realized the ruse was just for fun. 
      Another Christmas a few years back in Bogota, Colombia, we roamed the neighborhood all night long visiting family along the way and attending midnight Mass, then exchanging gifts early into the morning. We recited the Novena in unison and sang Colombian carols in Spanish around the carefully crafted and placed crèche scene that is central to the symbolism in each home.
      A few years back me and Kevin, Lillie’s husband, read Chesapeake Country writer Kimbra Cutlip’s A Sailors Night Before Christmas to the gathered family:
E smelled like a tide gone too long from the shore …
Wit a wink and a grumble and a puff o is pipe
E bound up the hatch straight into the night.
Merry Christmas ya lubbers have yerselves a good night.
      Last year was the first I did not celebrate Christmas with the Protestants. The story behind that is as long as the Christmas story is old. 
      And now? There is change afoot. Many challenges and opportunities lie ahead.
      For our part, we will decorate the house and a tree or two. We will consecrate the Christmas icons. We will enjoy searching for special gifts for special people in our lives.
      Then we will celebrate once again the birth of hope in a broken world. 
      Christmastime goes by, and grandmothers’ songs are just memories. Treasures and fortunes have changed, but Christmas is still a celebration of new life and new hope and faith that there is more to life than is — and much depends on us.
      Merry Christmas!