Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Past

Each year when December comes around and it's time to decorate for Christmas, one of my very favorite things is getting out some of the old ornaments that have been around since my childhood. After I got married and had a home of my own, my mom let me have a few special things from Christmases past. They are not valuable in the sense that they cost very much money, but to me they are worth so much. These ornaments were on or under our tree or placed somewhere in the house every Christmas for as long as I can remember. I consider it a joy to give them a place of honor in my home today. They serve as a reminder to me for many things.

Here is the old nativity scene that Mom always placed at the foot of our small tree:

And here is one of our favorite old ornaments that my sis and I always called "the mouse in the chimney":

You see, we didn't have much when I was growing up. The things that are special to me and have a special place in my memory and in my heart are not fancy. Times were very, very hard for a very long time. When my sister and I were little, our mom would put up a small tree. Most of the decorations on it were ones that we had made at school or church, because it's all we could afford and because those meant the most to her anyway.

I don't really remember Christmas of 1978. It was one month shy of my second birthday. It stands out in my mind, however, because of a few old Polaroid photographs and because of the stories that have been told about it. Christmas was certainly unique that year. It was the year my dad won $200 playing pool, and he and my mom decided to spend it all on Christmas! Here's what our biggest childhood Christmas Day looked like:

Wow! It was a really big deal to us. Although I was too young to remember the day, I do remember playing with that basketball goal and that baby carriage for years to come.

We only have pictures from two of those early Christmases because they were the only ones during which we owned a camera. After only a couple of years, the Polaroid stopped working right and my dad tossed it into a field in Kansas during a road trip. I've always wondered if anyone ever found it!

The next couple of photos come from the following Christmas, 1979. It was thirty years ago this year, and one month before my third birthday. This is more like what a typical Christmas would have looked like at our house. There wasn't any bonus from any barroom activity that year, but I'm quite sure my sis and I were just as excited about Christmas Day!

If you look very carefully, you can see the little nativity under the tree. I even think I see the mouse in the chimney toward the top of the tree.

(That's me in yellow and my sis in green.)

Later I know there were many years when we had no tree and knew there would be few or no gifts. Fortunately, Mom knew better than to invent stories about Santa Claus. How would you explain to poor kids that even though they'd been good, Santa wasn't coming? I have always appreciated the fact that our mom made the decision to tell us that Santa was just a story that people tell for fun, but it wasn't real. We didn't burst anyone's bubble with the news, either; we just felt like we were in on a grown-up secret.

Mom knew that one day we wouldn't care that we didn't have mall photos with the man in the red suit and white beard, because she knew she had tucked the true meaning of Christmas away in our hearts. Her gift was that we knew that Christmas was about Jesus: Emmanuel, God with us. She taught two little girls that God loved us whether we were bad or good, and He blessed us with the greatest gift of all even though we were poor. That was something that we could believe in and hold on to.

So, that's what I focus on when I remember Christmas past. Sure, it was hard to see others with their new toys and games and clothes year after year. The true lesson and meaning of things is difficult to recognize when you're a child, but it is one that I hope will stick with me forever.

Sometimes I still need a reminder that Christmas isn't about things. It's about a Savior, it's about love, and it's about family. It's a great lesson for Christmas: past, present, and future.


Krysta said...

I love this post. Thanks for sharing. I hope I can pass on the same message to my children one day.

prayerfuljourney said...

Gosh...your post reminded me of the fact that my parents have boxes of photos that need to be sorted. I'm sure I'll be reminising about Christmas's past when I get around to looking at those photos. I remember my Christmas times as being so exciting. Just magical. I was blessed immensely when I was a child. It took for me to become an adult to realize it. Thanks for sharing hon. Blessings.

Connie said...

I boo-hooed reading this! One of my favorites for sure. Can't wait to see you in a weeks. XOXO

Life In Mazes said...

Thanks for sharing your special memories! I loved how your mom explained to yall about Santa and how she taught yall the real reason to celebrate Christmas!
Sounds like you have one very special mom!
Merry Christmas!

Baby On Mind said...

I love your post! You are blest to have a mother that taught you the true meaning of Christmas, and the truth about Santa. I hope to one day pass on the same to my kids. Love that you had pictures from so long ago. Though your childhood was not easy but I'm glad you are able to look back and truly appreciate what you had and what your parents did for you.

TRS said...

This is beautiful. Perfectly written too - thanks for sharing it!

Sunny said...

Stacy, you have been in my thoughts CONTINUALLY! This post is precious and such a great reminder of where our hearts should be focused amid all the busyness of the season.

twondra said...

I love looking at those pictures! Wow. That's gotta be so much fun to look back like that! Thanks for sharing!!

Jenn said...

WOW, so beautiful. This post really, really touched me. It's funny because I don't remember y'all as poor & I grew up with y'all! I just remember what a fun time it was at your house! Your mom didn't focus on y'all being "poor", but I remember lots of laughter at your house; one reason I loved getting away from mine! And yes, how hard it is for kids not to have what others had. We never had the "name brand" or "popuar" stuff either but it has helped mold me into what I am today, knowing the expensive stuff is not what Christmas or life is about! Thanks so much for this post.

Emily said...

Thanks for sharing these priceless family photos. I love hearing about other people's Christmas traditions and memories, and your pictures really brought yours to life.

katdish said...

I love seeing those pics, Stacey. A very Merry Christmas to you and your hubby, who I was very happy to hear is still, in fact, alive.

~S said...

I have one of those "mouse in the chimney" ornaments, too! So fun to see that and all your pictures and Christmas memories. Sounds like you have a terrific mom. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!