This year I am overwhelmed with memories of Christmases past. I have very good memories, and very bad memories.
Every Christmas eve as a child I had to listen to Gene Autry’s Christmas record. It wasn’t Christmas even until I listened to it. The fact that I got most of the words wrong because I couldn’t hear didn’t matter. I loved his voice.
One of my best memories is outside in near freezing weather on Christmas day trying out my new pogo stick. I never got very good, because I have bad balance. But I loved that pogo stick.
My painful memories involve my family. My parents often fought. I had two older sisters and a brother. I seldom saw my brother since he was 15 yrs older. My oldest sister was out of state from the time I was 1o until I was in high school. The sister closest in age is 5 yrs older. She left home as soon as she could, not that she had a choice. Dad threw everyone out when they turned 18….except for me, because if he did, Mom was going, too.
Christmas dinner had everyone at the table, and I dreaded dinner. There was one family member who never tired of reducing me to tears by telling my most embarrassing moment to everyone who would listen.I wanted to die of embarrassment. Why this humiliation was allowed to contine every Christmas, (Thanksgiving, too), I don’t know. It was the one thing I knew would happen every year and it did without fail, until I got married, moved to Germany and never went home for Christmas again.
My good memories are of church, and of the times spent with my two best friends, Maria, and Tootsie. My mother began a tradition of having them over for breakfast on Christmas morning, and Mom, Dad, and we three girls looked forward to it every year. Mom would cook a big breakfast, and we would all exchange gifts. We did this until I got married and moved to Germany, and Tootsie went by herself one year.
I loved Christmas eve at church. I went to a little Presbyterian church that was my lifeline. On Christmas eve, we always had a service of Lessons and Carols. You read scripture, and then you sing. I loved it. I became close to two young women that were older than me when I was in junior high. Martha was 6 years older, and Angie was 5 years older, the same age as my sister. It was because of them that I joined the choir. Angie played the piano and the organ and until I grew up and got married was what I wished my sister had been. We looked so much alike that people thought we were related. Wed do share the same ethnic background. We’re both descended from a group of people that are called Germans from Russia. My husband thought we were sisters, even though he had never seen us in the same place. How he explained to himself why my last name was Keiser and hers Richert, I don’t know. But I lived for Christmas eve when Angie and I would exchange gifts. I adored Angie.She could do no wrong. I know I had to have been a big annoyance. But she was patient with me, and very good to me I was her shadow. However, we are no longer in touch, and as I think about her this Christmas, it pains me. The break was over my husband and my choice of churches. The fact that I am now Catholic would probaby be considered even worse. But I miss her. It hurts and in the last year especially I have shed many tears over this estrangement. There is much I would love to tell her. Before I could read music, I used to annoy her by picking up when she made a mistake on the organ. No one else in the church would have heard it. But I did. How I could do that with a severe hearing loss and worthless hearing aids is beyond me. Since our estrangement, I have discovered that I can sight read enough to save my life when I don’t know a song, and that I can play the melody to almost anything I can think of by ear on the guitar. I’d love to tell her how her encouraging me to join the choir at the age of 13 impacted my life and that I have sung in choirs ever since. But I can’t. I don’t know where she is, and she doesn’t want contact with me. Neither does my sister, who is the same age. But I don’t grieve over that. It’s a relief. I don’t know where she is, but I do know one thing. She can no longer hurt me, and that is good.
After I got married, we lived in Germany for 3 years. My favorite time of year in Germany is Advent and Christmas,, There are Christmas markets during Advent, and much to eat, drink, and buy. I lived to buy Christmas ornaments. I’ve missed it ever since, and the three times I have been back to Germany have all been during Advent.
I used to be very lonely at Christmas, because I missed the the Lessons and Carols service and the breakfasts with my parents and Maria and Tootsie.
Now it’s just me, my husband and the dog, and that’s enough. I sing with my church choir for Christmas eve, and we come home and unwrap our gifts. The dog gets really excited and unwraps her gifts, and that’s fun. She loves to play with toys and she knows that if we hand her a wrapped gift, that there’s a toy for her, and she tears it open as fast as she can to get her toy. It’s a lot of fun.,
On Christmas day, for the past 10 years, we’ve gone over to Christmas dinner at the house of some very good friends. They have two boys, and I have greatly enjoyed watching them grow up. I’m grateful for the ten years of good memories, and hopefully more to come.
So this year I ache for the painful memories, and for friendship lost. I’m grateful that the abuse that I suffered in long over.
I’m grateful for good friends, a loving husband, a funny dog, and the blessings of not only having all of my needs met, but almost all of my wants, too. I couldn’t ask for more, other than this one thing. Angie, wherever you are, I miss you terribly.