The blue, red, green, and orange lights on the tree twinkle, mesmerizing me, and carrying me back, far back to another time and place. The lights on my childhood cedar tree were large by today’s standards, but so was the perfume from the tree itself. The tangy smell of pine in my living room now comes from the candle in the warmer. When the temperature begins to drop, I hear the furnace come on as I sprawl on the couch admiring the tree. In my childhood, a dropping temperature meant a trip to the woodpile, no matter if the rain fell in sheets or the cold wind cut my bare legs. The fire god in our fireplace had to be fed.
Because it fascinates me, I think and write frequently about change. How could the world have altered so much in half a century? I stretch my arms over my head and remember mailing chocolate layer cakes to Uncle Jack in Korea. In the past, grown-up children marched off to war and parents had no choice but to wait for letters. Soldiers waited too, for letters, for chocolate cakes. I can’t even remember the last time I wrote a letter. Now there’s email which goes in seconds. Letters take days, and the U.S. Postal Service marches toward antiquity.
Today everybody has a cell phone in his pocket, purse, or hand. Adults, teens, even young children 7 and 8 years old have them. Parents can stay in constant contact with their children. I talk almost every day to my adult children who live several hours away. Sometimes we talk more than once if they call Mom’s Hotline for cooking assistance.
“Mom, how do I make my gravy taste like yours? Should I buy chopped or whole dates for the peanut butter balls? Can I substitute margarine for butter in this recipe?”
The cost of phone service, surprisingly enough, is cheaper now than in my college days. We college students did crazy things to keep a few pennies from Ma Bell.
“I have a collect call from Susie Q,” the operator would say.
“She’s not here,” Mom would reply sweetly, then hang up and call Susie right back. It was cheaper that way. Calling collect was expensive. Back then I wrote weekly letters home, and Mama replied. Long-distance phone calls were for emergencies only. Today many people Skype on the internet to avoid long distance charges. People on opposite sides of the world can talk to and look at each other via their computer screens. Amazing!
Charlie jerks me back to the present as he joins me in the living room. With his bone in his mouth, he settles on the floor in front of the couch. His brown eyes reflect the tree lights. I wonder if he wonders why there’s a tree in the house. Maybe with all the ornaments he doesn’t even recognize it as a tree.
Some things never change though. When a toddler walks into the living room and sees the tree, his whole face glows with excitement. Little hands reach in awe for the Santas and snowmen hanging amongst the branches. He recognizes the magic and his eyes reflect it.
This Christmas as always people are reaching out to touch others who need. We all need each other. Even as we struggle with the politics of 2019 and Congress fights over everything and nothing, we still have hope. The season is synonymous with it. In my childhood, politicians were sleazy, but today’s technology magnifies the sleaze tenfold. Nonetheless, think of the strides in the medical field. If we can afford them, that is. The old adage says we have to take the bad with the good.
If this Christmas it were possible to take only the good from yesteryear and the present and make a new world, we’d be in better shape. Unfortunately, if is the biggest word in the English language. Nonetheless, Christmas is magical, holy, and extraordinary beyond belief. I hope you’ll stop and savor every second of it with your families, especially with the little ones as we move steadily toward Christmas Day.