Monday, January 07, 2008

A Bittersweet Christmas 2007

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. When we were kids, our parents made it special by Dad taking us out looking at the lights on Christmas Eve, while Mom put the presents under the tree. When she was ready she'd turn on the porch light and Dad would bring us back in, while Mom encouraged us to hurry that Santa was just leaving out the front door! We fell for it year after year. When my sister was three years old, Georg and I would take her out looking at lights too (I'm 15 years older than her). One Christmas Eve, we told her to look for Santa in the sky. As we drove through the neighborhood, all of a sudden who should appear around the corner of one of the houses, but Santa in full regalia, white beard, suit, boots and all. I don't know who was more surprised: my little sister, or Georg and I.

When I was a little girl in Austria there was a tradition called St. Nicholas Day, celebrated the night of December 5th. I remember being visited at our apartment by St. Nicholas and Krampus (the devil). They came door to door in our building. It was a version of good cop/bad cop. St. Nicholas left apples and candy in your shoes, while Krampus asked if you had been bad and threatened to punish you. I remember being very frightened by Krampus and remember it still, 55 years later.

When Georg and I had our kids we formed our own traditions. We always went Thanksgiving weekend to chop down a fresh tree and decorated it that weekend. Julie and her son Anthony joined us for many years. We kept up the tradition of celebrating on Christmas Eve. We always had dinner, sang Christmas carols and read the Gospel story of the Nativity before digging into the presents. Each present was opened one by one as we all watched.

This was our first Christmas without our son David. One doesn't feel very much like celebrating when everything reminds you of a lost loved one. I got a card from my niece in Germany which will remain precious to me always. Like many of our European family she always sends homemade cards. This card had a felt Christmas tree on the front. Each branch was a separate felt triangle. But one branch was missing. She had enclosed it inside, explaining that she did not want to send us a perfect tree because our Christmas this year would not be perfect: something/someone was missing. Over a hundred people expressed their condolences to us this year, but this was the sweetest expression of all. I'll never forget it. God bless you, Gabi.

David loved Christmas too. In September, he'd start playing Christmas music on the stereo and began stringing lights. He'd call me or email ideas for things he wanted for Christmas. Even though Michael Jon and Tifany now had an artificial tree, David still wanted to continue going with us to chop down a tree. He'd never let me consider giving in to getting an artificial tree. He loved getting state of the art lights and prided himself on his little light show.

This year, I decided to honor David's memory by taking his nephew, our grandson Nathan, and beginning a new tradition of chopping down a tree with him. Nathan was fascinated by the snow and the tractor ride, Santa Claus and the hot chocolate. when we had the tree up he helped me decorate it, hanging all the bulbs on the very bottom branches. We made our first gingerbread house together and he learned all the lyrics to Jingle Bells and most of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We remembered David through each and every thing we did and Christmas will always be a special reminder of him to us.

1 comment:

Natalie said...

This is absolutely beautiful! My husband found your blog because we have been researching Vieques. I read your blog on that and just fell in love even more than I already am. I can't wait to go even more now. Anyways, that blog intrigued me so much that I had to read some others. This one saddens me. I could not imagine going through what you have been through. I have a 20 month old daughter and could not imagine my life without her. I used to tell my mom that I wanted to go before her because I didn't think I could handle her not being here. She used to get so upset with me for saying that and always said "you are not supposed to bury your children, that's not the way it is supposed to happen." I now understand why. I am so sorry for your loss but am so glad you have found a great happiness in the love of your grandson. Thank you for sharing everything you do. :)