Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Gift

Absent Family, Friends, and Loved Ones

There was a tradition in my family, on Christmas Eve, to greet one another when we first got up to say, "Christmas Eve Gift!" and to say it first. I think this was a "tradition" in my immediate family, alone. I think maybe Mom made it up. But this tradition among the surviving members of my family that once numbered eight of us still survives. If I call one of my sisters today, and she sees that it's me calling, it will be a race to see who can say "Christmas Eve Gift" first.

Christmas in the desert (hehehe)
Over the years this little game, this little saying, turned into Christmas Eve Blessing for me, as I took stock of my immediate family members. We all made it another year, or those of us who have survived since the three years in a row (1998, 1999, and 2000) when three of my immediate family died: my eldest sister, my mother, and my father—in that order. We were greatly diminished when my eldest sister passed away in August of 1998. It felt like far more in our family was gone than just one person. And when my mother passed away in February of 1999, it felt like the heart had been ripped out of the family, and when Thanksgiving arrived that year, those of us who could make it gathered at Dad's house. Mom wasn't there to cook her delicious turkey. Mom wasn't there to fix the dressing. Mom wasn't there. Dad was there, but he was still grieving, after fifty-four years of marriage, and maybe he didn't feel we had much to be thankful for that year. We bought a turkey breast and Stovetop Stuffing, and the few of us gathered that Thanksgiving day.

When my dad passed away on his birthday, on September 17, 2000, that which held the family on a steady course, mainly through his hard work, sacrifice, and undying sense of duty to provide for his family diminished us even more. The five of us who have survived since those three years ending with the old century have now continued for sixteen years. And here it is 2016 and I wish them all "Christmas Eve Gift!" If you're reading this Betty, Libby, Carlton, or you first! May we all be blessed for another year.

The center hall in my house
To me, Christmas has always meant family, a time to gather, a time unlike Thanksgiving to really reflect on our blessings. This year, I will be spending Christmas alone (with my two little cats Ellie and Mae), but in my heart I will not be alone. Cliff will be here in my heart, my parents will be here, my eldest sister will be here, and those of my siblings who have made it through another year will be here.

My Christmas dinner this year will consist of Southern red beans (a gift from a neighbor), rice, homemade bread (a gift from my accountant in Las Cruces, NM), and  in remembrance of that melancholy Thanksgiving in 1999, the year our Mother passed away, a turkey breast, instead of her home-cooked turkey. My leftovers will consist of sliced turkey sandwiches. Just that. Nothing more. But this year, as every Christmas I find blessings that get me through this season, also knowing that the New Year is just a week away. Although I fully embrace the "Winter Season" celebrations that somehow involve other religions, I am glad to see that Columbus has decorated its streets with Christmas trees and snow flakes (tree-symbols and snow flake symbols, that hang from the light poles down Main Street and Fifth Street). I remember driving through small Texas towns on the way from Deming, New Mexico to Waco, Texas, when our entire family was young and consisted only of Mom, Dad, my two older sisters, me, and one younger sister, and all the small towns were decorated for Christmas, which we would pass through at night on the way to Waco to spend Christmas with Mom's mother and her family. Some of the small towns might also have snow, which added to the beauty.

It's just that time of year for me to consider that Christmas Eve Gift, more special than anything under the tree on Christmas morning.

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