"So no matter how sad a Christmas might be for someone, awaiting around the corner is joy if you just take time to look for it."
Being very young in the old farm house outside Elmer, it was a stern rule that no one could go downstairs to see what Santa brought until everyone was awake! Now at a very early age I learned the art of 'bending rules' so that my joy would not have to be put on hold.
Sitting at the top of the back stairs, usually in the cold, I would make loud noises that would eventually solicit my sister Patsy and Melvin in the questionable alliance. Finally relenting to the racket emulating from the hallway my folks were arise from the bed to take us on the journey down the stairs to Christmas heaven sometimes as early as 5 AM. There waiting underneath the tree was joy unending as we unwrapped the presents. Even the necessary gifts of clothes were greeted with appropriate Christmas awe.
Our budgets were very tight in our economically strapped home so many presents between us came from the 5 & 10 Store. As each one was unwrapped and greeted with glee, the presenter would proclaim loudly to all within earshot that the gift was indeed 'very expensive you know!" To this day, when we give gifts in our family we still, with fond memories, proclaim that the gift was 'very expensive you know'.
Christmas has always been very special to me.
I simply love the period that officially starts the day after Thanksgiving. Like the child at the top of the stairs I refrain from playing Carols or putting up decorations until midnight of Thanksgiving Day then the music flows and I can be seen humming carols down the street. Still the light on display in stores, the music and wishing everyone a wonderful holiday fills me with that special joy.
However, there has been a change since childhood.
As I have gotten older and having lost most of my peers to HIV/AIDS I no longer put up my beautiful tree.
In my closet are three boxes of ornaments collected from all over the world, special occasions and as gifts from different beloved friends. Each is wrapped with love in tissue and I am smiling now thinking of some of them. The beaded crucifix my mother made me, the toy soldier Peter Scott gave me to always remember him by, the red cardinal's that graced our tree over 50 years ago and the hand blown ones from Venice.
Putting up the tree alone and taking it down stopped several years ago when I started having my surgeries. Over the last those years, I have been in the hospital every December and it was just impossible to have the energy to supervise any tree decorations and where they should be placed to meet my stringent requirements.
Never one to be a victim I would still fill my apartment or even hospital room with music and the color red to celebrate the holiday. It was just tremendous and the joy was still deep within me.
Then there was the tree next door.
Across the street from me in a building next door that rises to the sky is a beautiful tree that always is put up just after Thanksgiving. My window looks directly at it and the people who live in that apartment has put tons of love into the tree. It is done perfectly. The last years, without their knowledge, it has become my tree.
I wait each year now to see it glowing and share their tree with them. If they only knew how much happiness I receive from their tree and love they have put into it.
So no matter how sad a Christmas might be for someone, awaiting around the corner is joy if you just take time to look for it. Those wise sages who say Christmas is in the heart are totally right. My mother died just before Christmas and my illnesses over the last years seen to hit right before my favorite time of year.
However I never stopped singing and never stopped marveling at the lights, responding to the 'Merry Christmas' or "Happy Holidays' from strangers and taking delight in my Christmas tree that is now across the street. Even now, when I am all well, my neighbor's tree is even more beautiful to me.
I will always be grateful to my unknown neighbors for putting up their tree and sharing it with me. Happy holidays to you all and must love and peace.