Memorable Christmases

I am at a time of transition.


I no doubt have been for some time now, but as with many things involving calendar-induced change, I tend to think I am immune.


Not that I am in a continuous state of denial about growing old, or want to revel in and bring back my college or high school days.  No thank you.  Rather, I am comfortable with my age – which just happens to be 55.  I just like to think of myself as a young 55, whatever that means.  Sure, I posted Sammy Hagar’s famous pre-Van Halen rant, I can’t drive 55 on Facebook for my birthday – but it was just a lark.  I love being a Papaw to three lovely, well-behaved…okay three lovely, beautiful, but spoiled rotten grandchildren.  (They are actually well-behaved on the whole, if you discount the Tornado path of toys and stuff through our house…)


Sorry – I got off track.  It’s just at this time of year that I sometimes think back to my own Christmases of the past.  Here’s a hodge-podge of memories, in no particular [including chronological] order.  I may come back and add to the list if I think of some special ones that I missed:


* The recon mission.  I usually colluded with my younger sister to go on search and find missions throughout the house to locate where Mom hid ours and others’ gifts well in advance of the big day.  Applied equally as well to birthdays.


Eggnog and fudge.  My dad was the eggnog connoisseur, and we always drank it without any extra enhancement.  After all, we were kids!  But the real treat was my Momaw’s incomparable Chocolate fudge.  The fudge was kept in a tin that was placed on the attic steps [where it received just the perfect amount of cool air to make the fudge to die for].


* The cool bikes.  In Christmas of 1969, my brother [1 year and 3 weeks my senior] and I received new orange spyder bikes with tiger head grips.  Shortly after Christmas, in January 1970, our family moved to a new home.  I distinctly remember riding our bikes in the chilly January weather in our new driveway.


*  The infamous bird ornament.  My dog Baron was the first of many Miniature Schnauzers in our family.  Someone (probably my Dad) bought an ornament that simulated the chirping sound of birds.  It literally drove Baron crazy, and we no doubt got some humor from it.  Not that the noise hurt his ears; on the contrary he wanted to hunt it, get it, and kill it.  That dog had to have some hound in his blood somewhere along the line.


* Post-Christmas planting.  My mother picked out a live tree every year.  And we loved the smell, and decorating it as a family. We usually kept the tree up until New Years, and then it was time to haul it outside.  Rather than tossing the tree, or grinding it up for mulch, Mom and Dad wanted to plant the tree out in the yard [we had several evergreens on the property already].  So, my brother and I would trudge out into sometimes bitter cold and try to dig a hole in an even more bitterly hard ground.  Our tree came with roots and all, which made it that much heavier to carry or pull.   Despite our efforts, I can’t recall a single tree that survived.


The train.  I loved our Christmas traditions, even if I have portrayed myself as somewhat of a Scrooge in my adult life [I am recovering].  One of my favorites was a felt Christmas tree banner that was hung on the wall each December.  It had 12 square boxes on each side of the tree for the days in the month [through Christmas Eve], and each contained a small “ornament’ held by a pin.  Each day, one of us kids [four in all] had the honor of hanging the little ornament for that day on the green felt Christmas tree.  One ornament in particular held fascination for me.  It was a little blue train engine.  Perhaps it was because my grandfather [who I never knew] was a railroader.  In any event, that became my special ornament to hang year after year.


Christmas Knick-Knacks.  Our parents have now been in an assisted living facility for a couple of years.  For a while we have been packing up things at the house.  We were amazed at the amount of Christmas decorations, knick-knacks, odds and ends, and various other Christmas items that my mother had purchased over the years.  She simply loved Christmas, and the house reflected that.  


* Keeping the Fire Burning.  My church today holds a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service each December 24th.  One tradition is that at the end of the service, we extinguish the lights and pass the flame as one candle lights another during the singing of Silent Night.  The flame is to represent that the Light of the World [Jesus] has come for all people, and we are to take that Light out into the world.  In my youth, my home church took that to heart.  Today, we turn the lights back on, blow out our candles, and turn in the candle as we exit the church,  Practical; saves money on candles.  In my youth, we kept our candles burning as we exited the church!  If it was particularly blustery night, it was a challenge to keep the candle lit until we reached the car.  Then, as we drove home we would see other cars with candles burning inside on the highway.  What a vivid image of taking Christ out into the world!  I imagine that the practice was stopped in the name of safety or risk management in the litigious environment we currently live in.  But as a kid, I loved it.  



What about you?  What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?  I encourage you to write and share on your own blogs.  If nothing else, it rekindles brain cells and is a cathartic process for the soul.


Merry Christmas to all.

im·per·ma·nence

casey02 casey01

{One of the most important messages I have ever set out to write}

We focus so much time on things that will be dust, and comparatively little time on Scripture and souls – the only things on earth that are lasting and eternal…

Impermanence.

Of late, this word has been ringing in my mind.  I hear and see it everywhere.  It emanates from passages of Holy Scripture that emphasize and distinguish the temporal from the eternal.  I see it all around me in the ordinary items we all take for granted, as well as those we hold close to us as precious heirlooms.  It has been hammered home forcefully in the passage of time and inevitable change that accompanies it.

The year 2015 has been one of monumental change in my family, but inevitable to all of us who remain on this earth.  Our parents because of age and cognitive issues now reside in an Assisted Living facility.  It has been a struggle for them, especially for Dad – who has always been in control.  And an adjustment for us kids as well.  Nothing stays the same.  Impermanence.

We now face the task of going through a lifetime of accumulation at my parents’ house.  Not that my parents were greedy materialists, hoarders, or anything of the sort (maybe borderline hoarders in certain cases).  But all of us can have the tendency to hold on to things, to wrap and box things up for some later date.  Maybe with the thought of passing on to future generations.

We recently went through a project to clean up the basement in my parents’ house, and many items were ruined and could not be saved.  Including many items that Mom or Dad had fastidiously stored away, for years [wrapped in newspapers from the 1970s and 80s].  But mold and moisture found a way to get through.  Impermanence.

This was a lesson for me.  Do not hold on too tightly to things that will eventually pass away.  No doubt I will try to hold on to at least a few items, but I had to ponder this question, not only about things from my childhood home, but things from my own home:  What if my child, my grandchildren have no interest in keeping these items?  And even if they do, what’s most important is enjoying God-given family relationships while we still have these cherished people with us.  I am ever so grateful that I have Mom & Dad still with us, even if they can be a challenge some times.

We are or will be tempted to hold onto things that often have great memory or intrinsic value for us.  And I am not condemning that practice wholesale.  But let us remember that (1) we cannot take these things with us and (2) the things that last – people/family/souls, the Word of God – are where we should focus most.  All else is… Impermanence.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Mat 24:35

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  1 Tim 5:8

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.  Mat 24:44

Limited Time Offer

Blink – and you’re ashen dust

Set to expire like the rest of us

Reserve your mansion

before time rolls up

05/06/13

{Artwork by the talented Jeff Casey, high school classmate; framed artwork proudly displayed in my home]