By Sandra Dempsey Post
Sentimentality overflows in my memories as I recall Christmas as a child, teen, young adult, newlywed, a new mom, and all the various stages of celebrating and enjoyment. I don’t remember how old I was when I first became aware of what Christmas was about, how it came to be, why I received wonderful, fun gifts, and why there are many ways to celebrate the holiday. I just knew I loved everything about it.
In the 50s and 60s, mail order catalogs were a special part of the holiday tradition. They were a favorite of mine and I spent considerable time looking through them. We always had four or five different ones delivered to our home, and I’d pick out favorite items for me, and then pretend I was the mom ordering gifts for my nine children. Not sure how I decided to have nine, but that was always my preference. I was a loving mom, and apparently thought I could do it all as I rarely secured a dad for my children. I had a wonderful father in real life, but when it came to make-believe, my “children’s father” must always have been at work. Interesting how some important details are so casually considered at certain ages.
When I was old enough to go downtown, where it seemed everything was happening there back in those days, my friends and I or my sister and I would go shopping, or looking, and I loved it. We’d visit Santa Claus up on the fifth floor at Block & Kuhl, enjoy the beautiful decorations throughout the store and behind the windows there, and also at Bergner’s. We might have a snack at either store or go up to higher levels for something a bit fancier. We planned in advance to take extra money for buying one of those more lavish treats.
Downtown was beautiful in the daytime and at night. I don’t remember ever feeling uncomfortable or fearful going to the many stores that were open on Friday evenings. It was a simpler, safer time then which we took for granted, because we didn’t know not to. My parents were cautious about giving me safety rules, telling me what time to be home, paying attention to keeping my purse and purchases in my hands, and behaving in a polite manner. None of that interfered with my enjoyment; it was simply part of the rules I was to follow. Besides, since it was the Christmas season, you never knew if Santa was watching.
I don’t recall how I came to terms about Santa and who he was and what he did. I wasn’t so interested in the details as long as I knew he or his helpers would stop by my house for Christmas. When I learned later my parents and older sister had a part in that Santa story, I still didn’t care. I loved the holiday no matter who did the shopping, wrapping, and giving. And I was always grateful for what they brought me.
Still today I can almost “feel” the excitement, the scents in the air, the anticipation. I’m not concerned if it’s a white Christmas or a sunny one. I believe Santa will find a way to work out the challenges of traveling with reindeer to deliver the gifts, grab a cookie, and move on before anyone is the wiser. There’s always that feeling that it is as it should be and all is well. My participation in certain aspects of the holiday has changed through the years. That doesn’t make me sad because we all grow out of certain preferences and it’s part of maturing to find something equally as enjoyable to replace them with or even better, share with others. Holiday cheer suggests a wonderful time to reminisce, reach out to friends from long ago, contribute monetarily or time wise to an organization whose focus is providing gifts and food to those folks often overlooked or without family. No, we can’t recapture all the memories of yesterday, but we can always invite those memories back again by sharing them with others.
Christmas Shopping is not part of my agenda as it used to be, and I’m happy with that decision. Doesn’t mean I can’t leave a gift on the doorstep to surprise someone, or deliver a treat, or drop off something special to a friend. I still enjoy seeing decorations, the beautiful lights in the neighborhoods, and attending musical performances at schools or churches. Christmas has multiple dimensions, and often that’s where the spirit of Christmas is very much alive.
Of course the holidays are reminders of loved ones no longer with us. We likely will always feel the pain of missing our loved ones. But we can find comfort in realizing that missing someone, that deep down lonely feeling, need not last forever, but it is a reminder of how much the individual was loved. And that love can last forever, even through tears, sadness, and funny memories, or maybe even a few awkward moments. “Better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved.”
Don’t spend time waiting for the Christmas feeling to motivate you. Get started with good Christmas music. Maybe a few peppy songs that you can sing along to followed by those with a message needing to be heard. Go through old photos and put aside some that friends and family would like to receive in their holiday cards. Start early as time moves quickly in December. According to one of Frank Sinatra’s tunes, “It’s the time of year when the world falls in love.” Whatever your age, you can still make that happen. Falling in love is more than one and done. Genuine love is forever.
Wishing you a beautiful holiday season! May you find peace as you give thanks for the Baby born in the manger at Bethlehem; gratitude for your many blessings; and joy as you strive for peace on earth. Merry Christmas!
For additional informative and inspirational articles, visit 50 Plus News and Views Greater Peoria Area online edition today.