Friday, November 19, 2010

The Final Countdown - Da da da dum, da da da da dum, da da da dum, da da da da da da dum!

Despite the ginormous proliferation of mass consumerism known as shops & radio stations ushering in Christmas before Thanksgiving has even got here, I can honestly say that this year, Christmas has snuck up on me.

It was only just today, on my way into work, as I scrolled past George Michael bleating about Last Christmas, that I realized that there are only 7 days left till I can officially break out the Christmas decorations and start playing decent Christmas music (none of this overplayed Christmas Shoes crap!). Which is weird, because I have been aware that Christmas is approaching - to be more to the point, I even bought a new ornament the other day and have been thinking about my game plan for decorating my new space. Yet, it's rapid approach, and the fact that Black Friday (which really ought to be renamed Red & Green Friday) is just a week away, has caught me so offguard that had I realized it, I would've been counting down when we were still in the double digits.

I must say, I am so excited to have my own little place, yep all my very own, to decorate for Christmas! Though I miss the beautiful flagstone fireplace and mantle that I enjoyed the last two years, not to mention the large space that was perfect for entertaining (A sidenote: One of my favorite Christmas memories of all times was when Jen & Kitty & the girls came over on a Sunday afternoon, and we built a beautiful roaring fire, pulled our armchairs in front of it and over steaming mugs of cocoa they wrote the now infamous MN Max rap, while the girls watched Rudolf downstairs. But I digress), for the first time in a long time, I can bust out ALL the ornaments and garland I want, and pretty much make the place look like Buddy The Elf threw up a HoHoMocha inside my apartment. This thought does more than excite me, it inspires me to new and obscene levels of anticipatory Christmas decorating.

And my inspiration is really from one of the best people I can even think of - my greatly missed MawMaw Jo-Jo. Now this is a woman who knew how to decorate for Christmas! One of the things I loved most about her was that when it came to the holidays and her personal grooming, the woman didn't do anything halfheartedly. Boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations were brought out, including her beloved collection of Macy's Christmas bears, which were posed lovingly in a corner of the living room. PawPaw Kenny was set to string lights from every available surface, inside and out. I can just see him now, big bald head and a red Christmas sweater, climbing the ladder. There were snow globes and picture frames and tchockies and garland and red and green everywhere.

And every year she'd bake pan after pan of Christmas cookies, wrapping them lovingly in red and green tissue and nestling them inside round tin after round tin, gifts for her friends and neighbors. My favorite holiday treat of MawMaw's was Sausage Balls, and I intend to bring those back with a vengeance this holiday season. I remember they used to give me a wicked case of heartburn, but oh man they're so good going down. MawMaw also had a son who worked at the White House and every year for Christmas he'd send her the official White House Christmas ornament. She had loads of them, and every year they sparkled from her tinsel decked tree, glittering prettily in their crystal charm.

I can barely think of MawMaw and not cry, I miss her so much. But especially at the holidays (and during any Lakers game), I think fondly of her, miss her like crazy, and am inspired to carry on in the gung-ho-ness of her traditions. There will be nothing little about my Christmas decorating this year, and like MawMaw, I will make no apologies for that fact.

But the other thing that MawMaw taught me, and that I cherish as a truth of who she was, is that Christmas isn't just the time to celebrate the Lord's birth, but to spend reminding the people in our lives how important they are to us. Even when PawPaw got sick, and MawMaw and him could barely afford their prescriptions, she always had a present for the ones she loved at Christmas, even if it was something of sentimental value to herself, that she was passing on. She always wore a smile, and a red turtleneck, even when she herself was wasting away to skin and bones. Remembering her smiling like that, and the love in her heart that shone like the lights on the tree might just be my very own Christmas Shoes/Hallmark Movie moment. The lessons of love that MawMaw and PawPaw shared with me at Christmas, and the unabashed love that they showed me will forever be buried in my heart, treasured as dearly as frankincense, gold and myrhh.

One of my favorite bloggers, Centsational Girl, wrote this, this week, in her post about throwing a stress-free Christmas party:

"You know that scene at the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ when George Bailey looks around at all his friends and family and Harry toasts, "To my big brother George, the richest man in town!’ It chokes me up every single time! You too? The moment in the film is about the importance of friends and a purpose filled life, but here’s what I always get from this classic: it doesn’t matter how elaborate or modest your home or your lifestyle, the best moments of the holiday season come from the togetherness and good spirits felt from surrounding ourselves with the ones we love. It has nothing to do with money."

I think MawMaw would agree. So as Black Friday approaches, and I think of all the people out there braving malls and fighting crowds, one thought makes my heart skip a beat. It's not a sale, it's not a discount, or the thought of presents under a tree. It's the memories I have in my heart of time spent with them, and the knowledge that there are only 7 more days till I can officially break out my Christmas decorations, put on some Nat King Cole, and serve myself up a serving of peppermint hot cocoa in a tall Christmas mug while looking through pictures of the good old days, spent in MawMaw & PawPaw's living room. I know it will be with a tear in my eye, for missing them, that I hang my lights alone this year (well me and the kitten that is). If you're reading this and all this nostalgia and romance of spirit appeals to you and you wanna come over and lend a helping hand, then friend, let's celebrate friendship and Christmas together. Just know that I might make you wear a red sweater and climb the ladder for me, is all.
And that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

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