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Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Traditions Have To Start Somewhere

It looks better at night...

Traditions don't seem to last long in my life. About as soon as one is established, something massively traumatic happens to disrupt it. First it was my brother shot to death the day after Christmas that put a damper on the holidays for several years. Ironically, the night before he died we'd talked about continuing some family traditions with our own families when we grew up. Next it was Christmases with my Grandparents after family members asked me not to visit her anymore because it upset the old woman too much. I look a lot like my Dad and he was murdered by my stepmom a few years before and she had a stroke or something and got it into her head that my wife was Dad's wife. Anyway - no more King family holidays after that. It would have been difficult given that my beloved grandmother threatened to stab my beloved wife in the heart if she ever came to her house again.

Then we moved to East Texas on a wing and a prayer after the place I worked was closed down by the state for something we didn't do. We'd been holding Christmas celebrations at our house there in my hometown of Keene, Texas. Everybody came - my mom and stepdad and assorted brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews on both side. When we left Keene, we lost our ability to do that. So, we restored a run down old house and gathered our mostly grown kids around and started a new set of traditions, building upon some of the old ones. We began making a new Christmas ornament every year that memorialized some important thing that happened that year.

They were very nice Christmases for many years after that. Then my son, Micah died and the joy felt like it was sucked out of Christmas. My wife became disabled and life became "interesting" as the Chinese put it when they want to curse someone. But we did our best to bounce back after that first Christmas without Micah. And we did.

So now we're virtual shut-ins and our eldest son is in a very bad situation, his mother grieves for him and for our lost boy. We have no family around anymore and to tell you the truth we didn't even have a Christmas tree anymore. I hung some lights on the porch so the neighbors wouldn't think we were Jehovah's Witnesses or something, but it wasn't much. I bought us a new TV one year, but most years were kind of thin.

Christmas stuff stayed boxed up for a few years. It came out briefly until illness and financial disaster led to another drastic move, leaving our kids far behind. The situation with the family members we moved to help didn't last for long and we found ourselves literally homeless just before Christmas. Meanwhile, my son back in Texas rolled my truck into a house destroying both and taking our Christmas decoration collection with it. We lost all our tangible Christmas memories in that accident and were not able to recover them.

This was just before Christmas 2012 after we became no longer
homeless people and were rescued by two wonderful Christians - the Havrillas

A year after we moved into the carriage house (above), we decided to exorcise the humbug spirit from the place and to begin working up some new traditions of our own - just the two of us. God seems to have the same idea. Some friends from the local church we can't attend because we can't afford to keep a car, have two precious little ones that call us Grammy and Poppy. They come to visit us and give me rides to town to the pharmacy and Walmart. We've adopted their babies as it seems unlikely our own kids are going to reproduce significantly. We have a grandson that doesn't bear our name and whom we've never seen before and our youngest seems determined to not have kids of her own. She already has a houseful of everybody else's kids, so I suppose that's enough. We're very proud of her and her husband's work with young people.

Last Christmas, determined to reestablish some sort of Christmas tradition for us, I bought a little tabletop Christmas tree and some ornaments at Walmart - just the right size to set on top of my desk (see above photo). Last year, my adopted granddaughter, Eliana (I call her Jellybean) went shopping for the tree with me and helped me pick out the decorations. When we got home, she helped me decorate the tree and we set it up on top of the desk in a place of honor. I did not know I was establishing a new tradition.

This year I had delayed putting up the tree for some reason. I still miss Daisy, who sympathized with me on Christmas. It could have been the Christmas cookies, but I like to think Daisy had some empathy going there. Whatever the reason, the time never seemed just right for putting up the tree. Sometimes I think angels whisper in our ears, for one afternoon I felt a strong impulse that I should put up the tree. So I climbed down the stairs of our garage apartment to the garage below and fetched up the tree and the box o' decorations. I'd just laid them out on the kitchen table preparing to trim our little tree when I heard footsteps on the stairs.

It was our friend April and with her she brought Jellybean and her little brother Liam who has just gotten his sea legs under him. Jellybean saw the little Christmas tree on the table when she walked through the door. She made a beeline for a chair and climbed up to help. So for the second year in a row, me and Jellybean trimmed our tree. I kept misting up (I'm a big old tub of mush about stuff like that), but we finally got the decorations properly placed and set the tree on top of my desk.

It's not a big new Christmas tradition, but I will take it. Thank you God for reminding me that traditions have to start somewhere and kids are the best allies when you want to start one. So, merry Christmas to all (even if you don't like Christmas). Christmas is after all a celebration of the hope that came to humankind one cold night in Bethlehem long ago. And God bless us everyone, as a fictional but believably irrepressible Christmas child once said, and, to quote an actual angel, "Peace on Earth good will to all men," (and not just to the ones who voted the way you thought they should in November).

Just thought I should throw that in for those who are still in mourning this Christmas season.

"So, Ho, ho, ho! And Merry Christmas!"  As for the New Year, we'll wait and see how well my beard grows back out. In the meantime, it's still the season of hope.

© 2016 by Tom King

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