This, That and Other Stuff

Bob Neuman

With another Christmas so near, our thoughts turn to the birth of Christ, shopping, family and great dinners. Every family has its own way of celebrating. Maybe it would be well to take a solitary mind trip to reflect as the following gentleman did.

Remembering Christmas

The hardwood creaks as he walks the few steps past the green plants in the room and into the kitchen. He let the water run until hot, then opens the cabinet door to reach for the cup that states, “World’s Greatest Dad.”

As his tea heats, he looks through the window and notices the grass still green, even on this December 13. The day is crisp, clear and sunny, but he knows this could abruptly change to previous Christmases of brutal subzero temperatures.

Alone in the house, he settles into the couch, the steaming cup of tea feeling good in his chilly hands. “Funny,” he recalls, ”I have never liked cold winters, but I’ve lived in them nearly all my life.”

Vaguely aware of the Christmas music from the stereo, the quiet atmosphere is conducive to reflection. When younger, introspective thoughts seldom invaded his mind. Could it be that subconsciously he is now aware of the short time remaining to him … time to set things right or to savor the pleasures that bring satisfaction, peace and contentment? He knows unhappiness and disruptions are now more crucial and upsetting than when young and his life stretched before him.

Thoughts wander back to a childhood during the Great Depression, living with his parents, brother and grandparents in a small, cold and sometimes unhappy home, he recalls meager Christmases with few gifts.

In 1943, the family moved into a home of their own, but these were the war years, and he was frightened that his father would leave them for the war, as so many others had. Christmas time stood out in his mind. He remembered being awakened to serve midnight mass and the chill of the night. Next morning, a brand-new Schwinn bicycle stood under the tree. Never would he forget the feeling of seeing it there.

During that time period, he and his little brother would buy small gifts for each other but could never wait for Christmas to exchange them. The anticipation, excitement and joy then were exclusively reserved for children.

Sipping his tea, he continues his reflections. On a cold December evening in 1954, a beautiful girl became his wife, a gift lasting 59 years. There were the Arizona Christmases and the joy they brought to three precious little daughters. Those years were the best!

“Peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” plays from the stereo. He remembers how his father loved two things more than life … children and Christmas. His holiday preparations were monumental. He absorbed Christmas. With his death went some of our holiday spirit.

The tea gone, the stereo silent and evening shadows fill the room. A life is much like a day. Both pass quickly into darkness and disappear … leaving little but a few memories. How quickly family and friends are gone … much like a day.

Rising stiffly, he puts the cup in the sink, then turns. There are still gifts to wrap.