When I complimented them, she sighed and said, “You’ve been married a long time, so you will completely understand why that means so much.”
She launched into a story about how the amethyst earrings were a birthday gift from her husband, and she was so glad he was finally able to buy her the right gifts
She told me one year, when her children were young, he had given her a necklace that had a skeleton head. She tried wearing it just to make him feel good, but when she leaned over one of her children, it cut her daughter’s head.
During Christmas one year. her husband and his friend went on a shopping trip only to purchase size 18 skirts with floral appliques. The volunteer, now in her sixties, was a size 6.
Her stories made me laugh, but they also made me smile in appreciation of my own husband, who is generally very good at giving gifts.
Day 255: Thoughtful Husbands Day 254: The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean Day 252: Conversations in Cars
Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect Phrase Day 243: Little Girls With Attitude Day 242: The Soup Nazi Day 241: Contagious Smiles Day 240: Oklahoma Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check Day 237: Only 28 days in February Day 236: Genuine Signatures Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234: The Words “Happy Birthday” Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents Day 232: “Morning Has Broken” Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys Day 228: Having a Dream Day 227: Mispronunciations Day 226: Awkward Animal Moments Day 225: Shaking Hands With Scott Hamilton Day 224: Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated Day 212: “The Soul” Quote Day 211: Rubber Ducky Day 210: Tracks in the Snow Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days Day 206: Dogs Playing in the Snow Day 205: Descriptive Phrases Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help Day 200: Boys and Their Toys Day 199: The Most Important Person Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children Day 196: Being Told I’m Young Day 195: Good News Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be Day 191: Matt Groening Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work Day 187: Funny Phone Calls Day 186: Healthy Lungs Day 185: Reality Checks Day 184: Coincidence Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories Day 180: A soak in a bathtub Day 179: Optimism Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes Day 173: Family Acceptance Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song Day 170: Positive People Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids Day 168: Jealous Pets Day 167: Family Christmas Recipes Day 166: Church BellsDay 165: School Holiday 164: Unexpected Grace Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control Day 162: Anticipating a good story Day 161: Hope Day 160: When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment Day 159: Surprises in the Mail Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial Day 157: A Garage on Winter Days Day 156: Real Christmas Trees Day 155: Being a Parent Day 154: Selfless People Day 153: Nelson Mandela Day 152: Memorable Road Trips Day 151: Great Neighbors Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself Day 149: Love Letters Day 148: The first day of Advent Day 147: The Breakfast Club Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude Day 144: Watching My Dog Play Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met Day 142: When Our Children Become Role Models Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness Day 140; People Watching Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage Day 136: Postcards from Heaven Day 135: Mickey Mouse Day 134: Generous Souls Day 133: I’m Moving On Day 132: A Family That is Really Family Day 131: A Personal Motto Day 130: Mork and Mindy Day 129: The Bears’ House Day 128: Veterans Day 127: Doppelgangers Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky Day 124: When History Repeats Itself Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122: Helen Keller Day 121: The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song Day 120: Sheldon Cooper Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends Day 117: Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season Day 115; Life Experience Day 114: Changes Day 113: The Wooly Bear Caterpillar Day 112: The National Anthem Day 111: Parents Who Care Day 110: Good Friends Day 109: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss Day 108: A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades Day 105: The Peanuts Gang Dancing Day 104: Sharing a Secret Language Day 103: The Electric Company Day 102: Doing the Right Thing Day 101: When Siblings Agree Day 100: Being Optimistic Day 99: Trying Something New Day 98: The Sound of Children on a Playground Day97: Good Advice Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy Day 95: The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94: Accepting Change Day 93: True Love Day 92: Camera Phones Day 91: Bicycle Brakes Day 90: HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square Day 88: The Grand Canyon Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human Day 84: Captain Underpants Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green LightsDay 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of HayDay 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
And just as with Scrooge, my Christmas ghosts remind me of what used to be and what I still hold dear.
Unlike Scrooge, my ghosts don’t necessarily encourage me to reconsider my life path. They are simply reminders about change, about being a parent and about how the best Christmas gifts often go unopened for years and sometimes even decades.
And every holiday season, my ghosts remind me of when I was an adolescent and received gifts that I didn’t unwrap or appreciate until years later.
They were given to me when I was struggling with the usual angst and therefore oblivious to anything my parents were dealing with.
And they were dealing with a lot.
My dad was unhappy with his current employment and seeking a new job. My mom was happy and fulfilled with her role in the community, but supportive of my dad. Therefore, the needs of my dad, the family breadwinner, won out and he accepted a job almost all the way across the country from our Oregon home.
Shortly after accepting the new job, he packed up his Ford truck and our family dog and drove cross-country to West Virginia. And my mother, my brother and I were left behind.
He made the move in early fall, and even through my self-absorbed haze, I knew much my mom didn’t want to move.
She even insisted that no one was going to buy our house anytime soon. But it sold almost immediately, and plans were made for the rest of the family to move to West Virginia over the Christmas holiday.
I continued my life as usual, pretending the change wouldn’t occur. My mother appeared to do the same. And with the holidays approaching, she made sure all the family traditions were kept. We decorated the house and the tree. We participated in holiday events. And we baked Christmas cookies and breads. Our house was warm, festive and inviting. In fact, there were very few indications that our life would soon be disrupted in ways that would take me years to understand.
But that Christmas WAS different.
My dad wasn’t around, and my mom’s eyes would tear up every time ‘”I’ll be Home For Christmas” came on the radio.
Too soon, school was out for winter break, my dad came home to help with the move, we hurriedly celebrated Christmas and just as quickly packed the house. Then we left. Forever.
Initially, I thought I would never adapt to my new life. Everything was different – the way people talked, how they viewed the world and what their priorities were. But I was young, and I eventually adjusted. But because I was young, I was also self-absorbed. So, the fact that my mother was facing the same issues at the “real-world” level didn’t seem important.
I knew she was unhappy. I knew that she went from being a community leader to being someone fairly unknown. And I knew that she just couldn’t conform to the suburban culture that we suddenly found ourselves in.
But I also thought she was “old” and just wasn’t affected by things the way I was. Or at least she knew how to deal with everything better.
I’m now even older than she was at that time, and I know we “old” people don’t always know how to deal. At least I don’t. And I don’t always hide my frustrations and imperfections… not even from my children. And during the holidays, I sometimes simply choke.
But my mom never choked. Even when she was going through one of the hardest times of her life, she never put her own issues, concerns and needs before those of her kids. She pretended that whatever her children were going through was a much greater priority. And she knew the importance of making us feel like we were home, even if she didn’t feel like she was.
That’s why, the Christmas after “the big move” felt just like every other Christmas. We decorated the house with the same decorations that we’d put out in years past. We baked the same cookies and breads that we baked in the past. And we listened to Christmas carols on the scratchy records we’d always listened to. It felt like we were home for Christmas.
I actually received several unwrapped gifts those two Christmas holidays. I received the gift of learning to move forward with my life while still embracing the past. I received the gift of understanding the importance of traditions at Christmas. And I received the gift of a role model who gave of herself at a time when there was often little left to give.
I unwrapped those gifts years ago, but I’ve held onto them. Every year when we hang the decorations on the tree… some which go back to my childhood…these Ghosts of Christmas Past come back to haunt me. And they remind me that life is constantly changing: new people arrive while others leave. Circumstances sometimes improve and sometimes get worse. And sometimes, even the entire culture seems to dramatically shift. But amid these changes, we can still appreciate the Ghosts of Christmas Past, celebrate the Ghosts of Christmas Present and hope that the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come provide opportunities for our children to open the unwrapped gifts we’ve given them. And that they too are haunted by Ghosts of Christmas Past.