Looking Back on Christmas
December, 1962 – It was cold, but we played outside anyway. Playing indoors seemed like punishment. We had a routine; we under estimated the cold and over estimated our fortitude. Running, climbing, and making up games was the good life — right up until our ears and fingers hurt too much to play on. My little brother and I would reach our breaking point and go back inside, but not to stay. Mom would rub our fingers and put her warm hands on our ears. Then she gave us another layer and let us go right back outside.
In December of 1962 I was six years old and don’t remember a whole lot. But the memories I do have are quite vivid. My dad was in a job transition. He was attending Barber College in downtown Oklahoma City. He had moved us from the oil fields of west Texas through a short layover in Kingman, Kansas. Dad, Mom, my little brother Darren and an 8 month old sister, Danyne and I all lived in a tiny duplex around 50th and Lincoln. The little place had one bedroom and that’s where we all slept. My Uncle Bob, a gregarious, 6’5″ 20 year old, slept on the couch. The small, temporary home might have had 750 sq. ft. of space. That’s a stretch.
We ate beans a lot, I liked red beans. Still do. Mom or Uncle Bob could make cornbread and we often had fried potatoes. I loved my life. My whole family got to stay together in one room and the most entertaining person I had ever met was out on the couch. My world was perfect.
In December of 1962 my mom got a job at the toy department at Sears. How cool was that! Mom was with all the toys. We had some things under a Christmas tree. I’m sure Uncle Bob found a real tree somewhere. The only part of my life that was unhappy was a few hours when Mom had to leave us with the neighbors while she went to work. I hated it when both parents were away.
On one of those afternoons I was playing outside. There must have been only a few days before Christmas day. What I remember is running around a corner to see my three year old little brother with another kid from the neighborhood. The first thing that I noticed was wrapping paper everywhere. My brother was playing with some new toys and something seemed all wrong. I recognized that wrapping paper. I skedaddled!
The precocious three year old brother of mine decided that he would open the presents a few days early. Darren found a willing accomplice who helped him open the door to our home. They pulled what few presents we had outside and they were having a great time playing with them.
Mom cried a lot when she got home. Dad was not happy either. My brother got a pretty good spanking. My parents rounded up the presents and salvaged whatever paper and bows they could. Mom painstakingly put it all back together and they worked to make the Christmas of `62 a nice one.
Mom laughs as she tells the story today. She even adds the part that I didn’t remember — my little brother and his partner in crime got back into the house the very next day. They unwrapped the presents again!
Mom tells the story much better that I do. My own children are grown with their own families now. They tell stories about their childhood and we all remember ‘bumps’ and our own number of challenges. But we look back and see what we have become; we reflect and are actually thankful for our stories. We see life experiences and call them our own. It is good to stop; it is good to reflect and give thanks, even for our stories.
If your toes are warm and you have time to read this article then you’re in front of your computer and doing okay. The old hymn says, “Count your blessings name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done.” I offer this simple thought and challenge today, find yourself in your stories and by all means keep developing your story. You’ve probably seen the poster that reads, “God’s not finished with me yet.” He has a Big Story and invites us in. You may have heard about it and it’s not the Christmas of 1962. It’s The Christmas.
In December of 1962 things were tight for my family. That cold winter and tight little duplex could be viewed as a low point in the life of our family. But Mom wouldn’t trade anything for that memory. She wouldn’t tell you that it was fun. She wouldn’t claim that she saw anything good in it at the time. But, it’s her story! And now Grandma can tell the story with a bit of pride… “It was tough, sure. But we made it and God was right there helping us along.” Sounds like an old, wise lady.
I think Kierkegaard may have said it best, “You can only understand life backwards, but we must live it forwards.”