As I age, I savor long days and hope to see the years stretch out in a slow drip as in the days of my youth. Alas, the more birthdays I celebrate, the faster the days and years go by- until 2020! 2020 has been a LONG YEAR of challenges and disruptions. Life has not felt normal for quite some time. This year, I have desired the days to hurry by. I am ready to face a new year; hopefully one that will bring a sense of normalcy back to my life. I anxiously await the end of 2020 and the coming of Christmas!
It is not yet Thanksgiving and my Christmas tree and decorations are all in place. There are twinkling lights of various colors and wrapped presents under the tree. All of this early preparation is an effort to bring a little more peace and joy to days filled with uncertainty and trepidation.
Spending more time confined at home has led to much reflection on my years on earth and lately, my Christmas celebrations of long ago. I remember all the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas from my childhood as if they happened yesterday.
Our little house in New Iberia, Louisiana had a floor furnace for much of my younger years. I can still hear that furnace kick on during those chilly December days. Warm air shot up out of the hallway floor as the heater crackled and hummed. On really cold days, I would carefully stand right beside the furnace in the small hallway, holding out my hands over the warm air rising up and feeling its hot breath on my face and hands. Those days that were too cold to play outside, my mom would put her Christmas albums and records on an old record-playing console that had belonged to her parents. Soon, the sounds of Elvis’ Blue Christmas and Gene Autry’s Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer had me tapping my feet and smiling in anticipation of Christmas morning. If I was really lucky, mom pulled out one of her heavy saucepans and in a matter of minutes, I began to smell hot chocolate drifting through the air from the kitchen.
Hot chocolate was one of the smells I loved at Christmas time, but my absolute favorite was the smell of snow. Of course we had no real snow – we lived in south Louisiana! Mother had to improvise with what was available – snow from a spray can!
Each year, my dad brought home a cheery green tree he purchased for his bride and daughters to decorate. Upon entering with the tree, the house immediately took on the strong scent of pine. Dad was in charge of tree lights. It took time to untangle and get the lights wrapped around the tree. Once done, mom went to work! Ornaments were placed on the tree followed by what seemed to be tons of tinsel. A soft pillow of white skirting was draped around the tree bottom. On this mound of snow-like puffy white drape, Mom lovingly placed her holy family, shepherds, animals, angel into the nativity creche. The scene was not complete until she whipped out that can of snow. Quickly, the nativity scene was blanketed with a thick layer of snow. The windows where the tree sat were also given a frosted look with this magical snow concoction. When all was complete, I marveled at the frosty and bright world my parents had just created. The scent of the snow from a can now filled the living room and overpowered the heavy scent of pint. It was glorious.
Year after year, Christmas smells and sounds were familiar, faithful and left me secure with the knowledge that all was right with the world. No wonder I have already this year pulled out the tree, decorations and photographs! It is the familiar family traditions that calm one’s soul and give the assurance that at the end a dark day or even year, God’s gift to us remains constant and unchangeable. There is always an Advent season; the light of the world overcomes the darkness.
As I sit reminiscing and admiring my Christmas handiwork, I no longer am longing for a quick end to this year. I am content to see 2020 slowly tiptoe through this chapter of my life. I close my eyes and I can hear Elvis singing and I can smell snow. Let’s make some hot chocolate. Merry Early Christmas!