Christmas Eve and Christmas day are the most difficult times for many people. They conjure up happy childhood memories of love, family, candlelit services, colorfully lit up trees, gifts wrapped in shiny paper and special homemade treats of old family recipes that we only eat once a year.
Once we lose our childhood and as some of the people who made those days so special to us are no longer with us, we feel loss and nostalgia for something that we can never recover. Our innocence.
When we have children of our own we haul out holly and put up the tree before our spirit falls again. The children in the family make Christmas bright and hopeful anew. They help us to reminisce and make new memories that they will cherish.
I’ve lived abroad for nearly 25 years now and Christmas Eve is the day that I miss my family the most. I decorate the house with a Christmas tree and lights. I make my grandmother’s and my mother’s traditional recipes. On a few lucky occasions we’ve been able to fly back home and experience the white Christmas of my childhood. I am one of the lucky ones. My parents are still alive and although being so far away is hard for me these days, I still have them. And nowadays there is Skype.
Yesterday my husband flew south to visit his mother and family for the week. We were supposed to go with him, but it is impossible under the circumstances. I made him go. He is with us every day all year. Everyone deserves to be able to treasure their family and childhood and his mother needs him there.
This year is also unique because my son is in the hospital with restricted visiting hours. He’s not allowed to leave his room yet, even for a coffee. We can’t have a Christmas meal together. I have asked for special permission to visit him tomorrow morning and take him downstairs to the hospital chapel for the morning service. If we are conceded this privilege, I will take him outside for 5 minutes so he can take a breath of fresh air. He appreciates the small things now. A walk outside. A view of the sunset from his window. A visit from the dog when he is allowed to leave the room again.
This morning I’m making thumbprints, his favorite Christmas cookies. They always remind me of my great-grandfather who lived in Upper Michigan. We still go there every summer to pick thimbleberries and make jam. I will fill the thumbprints with thimbleberry jam and we will taste and smell an old-fashioned American Christmas. I’ll have to smuggle them in but two won’t do him any harm and besides, that’s what he asked for this Christmas. A taste of home and a breath of fresh air.
I am home alone with Lincoln. It’s time to brew the coffee and light up the tree. Let’s get those cookies in the oven. Merry Christmas to you all!
This is dedicated to my parents and my brothers. Thank you big brother for doing most of the thimbleberry picking.