Janet Rattay

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

“We’re not buying Christmas presents this year,” I exclaimed
It could have been sometime in October or November
IWVPA Club Recognition of Outstanding Non-War Related Writing: January 5, 2007
Awarded: January 5, 2007
when I announced this.
My husband, reading the paper nods,
doesn’t say a word.
Now we’re in the throes of December
and our spare room looks like a
tornado hit with all the wrapping paper,
gifts, boxes, and such.
It’s like a mosaic of color filling up every corner.
He just lets me go;
Knows I do this every year
Could this be the spirit of Christmas?

We were at the mall yesterday
I drag him out on his day off from work
“I thought you were finished shopping?” he says.
Looking down from the second level
he spies Santa Claus and the elves.
“Let’s watch the children getting
their picture taken.”
Tears fill my eyes.
Could this be the spirit of Christmas?
I remember as a child
standing at a distance watching,
wanting to sit on Santa’s knee
and to tell him what I’d like for Christmas
and then get the candy cane colored box
filled with Christmas treats
at G.C. Murphy Co. 5 and 10 cent store.
Being from a large family there never
seemed to be enough money
for the little extras.

This morning I hear my husband
singing a Christmas song.
Could it be the spirit of Christmas
has arrived?
I think this to myself as I go upstairs.
8:00 in the morning what else could it be?

The spirit of Christmas takes many shapes
I’ve felt it remembering childhood events.
Like the time each elementary class in school
learned a different Christmas carol and
we paraded around the church singing
loud and clear or surely Sister would
deal with us later.
Afterwards we were given a small
box of chocolates
and how good they tasted as my
sister and I trudged home in the deep snow
snow that seemed to last forever.

I’ve gotten out the sweet bread and nut roll recipes
Treasures handed down through the ages
I should make a copy of them I think
as I look past the stains covering some
of the written ingredients.
But I think I know them by memory
making them twice a year,
Christmas and Easter
for many friends and relatives
who eagerly await the delicacies.
Somehow the list keeps growing
including now my husband’s barber,
the young man at the market who
orders the yeast for me
I promised to bring him a sample.
I wonder which of my nieces or
perhaps nephews may pick up the
tradition of this baking.
None of my siblings have
I say, “Who will make these when
I’m gone.” I never get an answer.
The aroma of these fresh baked treats
Could this be the spirit of Christmas?

I am amazed at what types of gifts
children receive these days
Electronics that I hardly know what
they’re about or where to start
and what about the hundreds of
dollars spent?
I recall hanging our Christmas stockings
and being excited to see them filled
with little trinkets and candy.
Gifts consisted of a new pair of flannel
pajamas and slippers, a coloring book,
crayons, maybe a game that I could play
with my brother or sisters and
in younger days a baby doll and
somehow you never forget the smell
of that new vinyl doll.
When I got a little older a
lime green transistor radio was
my absolute favorite present.
Barley sugar candy suckers made
into little toys was also a treat.
Over the years I have
tried to find the candy
It just isn’t made anymore.
Simple treasures, childhood memories
Could this be the spirit of Christmas?

Ten years ago my husband had
a serious heart operation in which
he came through with flying colors.
He was discharged from the hospital
the day before Thanksgiving and we
had so much to be thankful for.
A week or two later, after we
completed our morning routine
and he was settled in for the day
I went out to do a little shopping…
which consisted of buying a live
fir tree, twinkle lights, and garland.
We had not had a live tree for
so many years.
The man selling the trees helped
me get it on the roof of the car and with
a few flurries in the air I headed home
humming along to the Christmas carols
on the radio and a few tears in my eyes.
Boy – was my husband surprised.
I put up the tree, and decorated it
under his careful supervision.
It was so meaningful that year.
Could that have been the spirit of Christmas?

Going to church was and still is
a big part of my life.
Bundled up in coats and leggings,
hats and scarves, mittens and boots, we
walked to church as it was in the neighborhood.
It doesn’t seem to be quite that cold anymore and
the snow isn’t quite as deep anymore.
As I got older attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
was of the utmost importance to me.
One particular time I recall
my sister, brother, and I were going
to attend Midnight Mass.
My father was sitting at the kitchen
table and that year he was staying home.
It was the first year without his wife, my mother.
I recall so vividly returning home in the wee hour
of the morning to find my father still at the table.
He said he had gotten the Christmas spirit
while we were gone.
“What do you mean by that,” I asked?
He said our mother had come to visit him.
Could he have wished or hoped to make it so,
or perhaps it was a dream
But with tears in his eyes he said he
was going to bed and wished us all
Merry Christmas.
It’s been forty years, but I remember
that Christmas like it was yesterday.
Was that the spirit of Christmas?

So we ask each other about the Christmas spirit.
Fleeting moments, tender memories
A combination of childhood, love, and
wanting to give of ourselves to others.
For in giving we receive so much
And isn’t that what the Christ Child brought
us when he came into the world… His Love.
So be careful not to miss the little moments
when the Christmas spirit arrives and leaves
as quickly as it came.
But most importantly remember to keep
the spirit of Christmas alive in your heart the
whole year through. This is my Christmas
wish for you.

Submitted for the December 2006 IWVPA Theme Project, “The Spirit of Christmas