God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.
~J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922
It happens to me every year in December, but it's not something I can predict, or make happen when I want to. It just happens when it's ready to happen, and to be honest, it's a bittersweet experience.
You may have noticed that I am quite the fan of holidays, and Christmastime in particular. I get this honestly, in particular from my father. He grew up during the Great Depression, in a family who lost their father as youngsters (my father, the oldest, was only 13), and where the kids (4 of them) were split up among relatives afterwards. In spite of hardship - or perhaps because of hardship - holidays were extremely important to him.
Of course, this was just fine with my sisters and I. My father loved to cook and bake, but was not home a lot due to his work, so the "big" holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter - meant he would not just be around, but be the one cooking. In spite of the fact that this entailed him using every single pot and pan, and every single dish for his preparations (which we then had to wash and dry later), this was something we looked forward to and counted on. Though my mother loved to eat, she was not too crazy about cooking. And needless to say, we never starved, but we couldn't wait for Dad to be home and be the cook!
I will admit to being a Daddy's girl. I was the youngest (by quite a few years), and so was nearly always home when my Dad was still around. Thinking back, I realize that I probably drove him nuts hanging around with comments, questions, etc., but to his credit, he never treated me like he wished I was out of the way, even for a while (or, if he did, it was never obvious to me). I loved to "help" him cook, watch baseball and/or football, clean - whatever he was up to, I liked to be right there.
My father died of liver cancer when I was 13 years old, at a time when a diagnosis of liver cancer literally meant no hope of any amount of survival time. This past November 24 was the 40th anniversary of his death, which occurred on the Monday of Thanksgiving week that year. I could write volumes about this, but this post is not meant to make you (or me) sad, but rather to share something with you that happens every year at Christmastime.
As I said earlier, I cannot wish this experience, or predict it. But it happens, and even though I more or less expect it, I am always thrown by it.
I can be reading, doing dishes, decorating the Christmas tree, or at work, and all of a sudden it happens. I am walking in the door from school in the second grade, and my father, who is home recuperating from one of his many cancer surgeries, is there - in the middle of the afternoon. He is putting up Christmas decorations, more specifically, hanging our Christmas stockings for Santa to fill. The most amazing thing? They are new stockings that he went out and bought that day. And mine is green with Santa coming down the chimney! Do you realize what that means?? GREEN. Not red, like my sisters' and everyone elses' stockings. And not just with Santa on it, but Santa coming down the chimney! As far as I know, nobody else in the world has such a stocking, but my father found one, and knew it was the right one for me! I remember the feeling of special-ness, of knowing that Santa cared about who I was that that particular stocking represented.
Of course, now I realize that my father probably bought a green stocking with Santa on it because he wanted us to each have a different stocking and the remaining red ones were the ones he had already chosen for my sisters. But at that moment in time, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. And every year, out of the blue, I am unexpectedly transported to that very moment, surprised, pleased, and thinking my dad is the best because he knew I needed that stocking.
When the moment is gone, I'll admit to being sad, at least for a minute or two. But it's always the point when I know that Christmas has officially arrived, and that my dad is never that far away.
Roses in December, indeed.