The Ghost of Christmas Past

A blur of lights and green, happy voices, a single wheel of a wheelchair, red-socked feet.  The camera tilts upright and finds it’s focus, pulling me like the Ghost of Christmas past back to another time when my parents were alive and the children were so small.

My mom in her wheel chair is singing and clapping.  Her voice is tuneless and her hands miss more than they connect but her smile is joyful, beautiful.   Our oldest son appears in frame, grabs his grandma’s hands and helps her clap in rhythm.  Spasms pull against his child’s strength but together they match the Christmas music in the background.  Our oldest daughter squeaks, “Good job, Grandma!  Good job!”

My brother is being a good sport in a pillow stuffed red sweater and Santa beard.  It’s clear he doesn’t know what to do.  The camera bounces as I pull my eye away from the view finder and tell him to find presents.  “Be Santa,” I say.  “Find something for Dad first.”

In response, our dad’s big booming baritone rises over the song that’s playing on the radio as he sings All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth! The words are all wrong, expect for the chorus, but his enthusiasm is sweet.  I remember how I smiled to hear him.  I turn the camera to capture him but only get to his chest before the camera tilts and flashes back to my brother, pulling from under the tree a present.

The video is about 15 minutes long and not once do I capture my father’s face.  I watch and smile through tears.  The only evidence that I was there is my voice and feet.  The only evidence of my father is his voice and flashes of his plaid shirt and brown pants;  hands carefully folding back paper from presents.

The kids run in and out of view, sometimes pulling faces and holding their arms out TA-DAH! as they jump into frame and out again, hamming it up for the camera.

I’ll never forget those Christmases past, those bright shining moments when we were happy and life seemed forever long.  It’s hard for me to believe that both of my parents are gone.  It was my father’s last Christmas.  He died two weeks prior to Christmas the coming year.

One day my children will sit as I am, remembering Christmases past and I’ll be nothing more than a memory.  I want more than anything to leave them with happy memories, which means that I have to live well now.  I have been given no promise of tomorrow.

My friends, I encourage you to do your best to put aside petty worries and concerns, family squabbles, stress.   I well know there are bigger, insurmountable obstacles in families.  I have my own.  But I lay those aside and focus on what’s possible.  I practice love and kindness, court patience.  I try not to sweat the small stuff.

“…once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!”

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

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47 responses to this post.

  1. “But I lay those aside and focus on what’s possible. I practice love and kindness, court patience. I try not to sweat the small stuff.”

    Bravo!!!!!!!!!! Especially the part of practicing love and kindness and courting patience. You are something special, Katy.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Ileene on December 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Oh my sweet Kate…what wonderful memories your children will carry of their Christmases with you..no doubt…you see we have learned the lessons we should from what our parents did and didn’t give us as children.We all will make mistakes rearing our children that is what makes us human. But to REALIZE and be able to admit our mistakes to our children , instead of acting like we infallible to them ( the mistake so many parents make)I think makes us that much more endearing to them, at least in my case.you have such heart and a wonderful ability of self reflection that just might be my favorite thing about you.((HUGS))

    Reply

    • I absolutely agree with you about the importance of owning the fact that we are imperfect. The words “I’m sorry” go a long way in the heart of a child. When I was a little girl I promised myself that I would grow up to be like my mom who was never, ever afraid to admit she’d made a mistake. I’m grateful for her example. <3

      Reply

  3. Very touching Katie !!! Time never seems to stay still long enough for us to truly grasp that it is over in a blink of an eye.

    Reply

    • Hi DawnMarie! Looking at my own life I recognize there were times that were truly good and I was happy, only I’m not sure that I recognized it in the moment. I want to experience those sweet moments when they’re ripe, right as they’re being picked, then savor them in the remembering.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Tim on December 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    *sigh*

    Reply

  5. Beautiful! Your posts are always so lovely and relatable. I enjoy holiday reflection. Though I must say.. every year I “put aside petty worries and concerns, family squabbles, stress.” I do. I reach out and invite those family members who have drifted apart to visit, they rarely accept. Some of them literally live across the street but can’t be fussed to visit on Holidays. It’s sad. There are memories to be made! I wish they could see that they are missing out. Guess not everyone can be as smart as you and I ;) hehe

    Reply

    • Thank you for your kindness, Kristie. I laughed when I read your post. I think we should own the things we get right just as much as we do our mistakes. I love that you’ve said that you DO reach out, that you DO put aside the petty stuff. I do too.

      I am proud of the fact that I have always been willing to hold Thanksgiving or Christmas on whatever day works for others. I don’t need to own a particular date. I just want to make sure that family and friends can be together. I’ve seen people torn about by inflexibility and warring over who gets what day. I never fell into that trap and I’m glad. :)

      The holidays are simple now because we have few extended family. I have reached out time and again and every now and then someone reaches back and I feel truly blessed. In the end, I know that I am only responsible for ME and I’m at peace with the choices I’ve made during the holidays. :)

      Reply

  6. That is sound and sage advice my friend! and I totally agree with you. I think Love and peace should rule the season. From my part of the world to yours I send you Love and ((((Hugs)))) and Merry Christmas Wishes for you and your family. Happy Holidays my friend!

    Reply

  7. This is so beautiful, Kate. You describe the scene so vividly it makes me tear up. Thank you for the reminder to focus on what is important. Bless you.
    Hugs from chilly London xx

    Reply

  8. I commented on this before. =(

    *sigh* computers, whaddaya gonna do with em?

    I have many pictures of my Dad but sadly his voice is only in my memory and that too can not be called upon at will. I just hear it sometimes in my head. I would love to be able to hear his voice again. What a gift for you to have that record of a happy day. =)
    <3

    Reply

  9. This and your last blog are bookends of emotion to the issue of being present versus having a cherished video to remember your loved ones by. They reflect a frustration and longing that resonates with me. Thoughtful.

    jc

    Reply

  10. Boy, did I find this at the right time! Been a long time, JK. But MySpace ain’t quite what it used to be anyways. Anywho…

    I am currently back home on the island and the holidays have been been filled with familial squabbles. Sadly, I leave in a couple of days and things are worse than how I found them. I was ready to just throw in the towel until just now. Thanks for reminding me why I shouldn’t. Glad to see you are still writing.

    P.S. If you remember the name drop by Facebook and say “Hello”.

    Reply

    • I just sent you a friend request on fb. Of course I remember your name. :)

      I’m glad you’ve decided to hang in there. Things may be complicated and difficult but your family… well, they love you.

      Reply

  11. You know you want to write it….

    Reply

  12. I don’t know how I missed this, Kate. So fascinating the things you notice when you play back that video. Like the things that were missing from it – your father’s face. So glad you caught your mother’s, and your son’s…..

    This was a good trip. Bittersweet.

    Reply

    • Bittersweet, yes. I wrote this through tears on the anniversary of my father’s death. I wish I had captured his face in the video. He was at his very best on Christmas – so joyful. And the way my mom looked, watching him, watching all of us… The love she had for us was as big as the world.

      Reply

  13. Posted by Jay on January 19, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    A very touching write with a gentle reminder for us to love our family no matter the stresses of the season…thank you. I’ve missed reading you, so I came here to see if there was anything new that I missed…I missed this one, glad I read it!

    Reply

  14. Posted by Anonymous on April 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    sigh…. where did you go? *tear*

    Reply

    • Ileene! Your name cropped up in my e-mail comment notification and I smiled. Will you send another comment with your e-mail address (I won’t approve it for posting and it won’t show to anyone other than me) so I can contact you, please. <3

      Reply

  15. Hiiiii! Was thinking of you and wanted you to know :)) ~Kristie N.

    Reply

    • Hi Kristie! It’s good to hear from you. :)) I know I fell off the radar rather quickly when I stopped blogging and left fb. Now that I’ve got your e-mail address, (I have no idea why some blog comment notifications show e-mail addresses and some don’t) I’ll shoot you an e-mail and we can catch up!

      Reply

  16. “You still breathin’, Baby?”

    Reply

    • I’m laughing at “baby.” :) I was just thinking about you the other day and almost sent you a text but I got side-tracked by a chicken. True that.

      I’m not blogging or doing the social network thing but I’m still here, breathing. Write, call, whatever. We need to do the stay in touch thing!

      Reply

  17. Here’s a link to my latest. Makes me smile like an idiot every time I hear from you. http://wheniwasaboy.wordpress.com/

    Reply

    • Too funny: All I have to do is click on your name or photo in your comment above (or on any other of your comments) and it will take me directly to your blog or I can go over to the blogroll on the right of my own blog page and click on that link. Now, I have a fourth option: I can click on the link you just left me…

      Don’t be surprised if I ask you again for a link to your blog. My brain has turned to mush, methinks.

      Reply

  18. Posted by Ruggers on April 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Glad to see you’re still somewhere and breathing, Katers! Hope you’re doing well. And love and kindness are good things to focus on, and to hopefully pass on to your children… merry christmas? ;o)

    Reply

    • Hey Ruggers! It’s lovely to hear from you. I am well, just haven’t been blogging or doing the social network thing. I thought of you just the other day and wondered where you might be walking. :)

      Reply

  19. (((((hugs)))))

    Reply

  20. Just came over to say “hi”.

    Hi.

    Oh – and start writing again, K?

    Catch you later BFG.

    Reply

  21. Ok chick – it’s been EXACTLY one year since you wrote this. Time to answer the muse you’ve been ignoring for far too long. Look at her – there she stands, tapping her foot impatiently. :)

    Reply

  22. You know, though I get such a strong sense of happiness and joy from this post, I also notice a tiny bit of sadness in not having much of your father or yourself in the video. A small sense of missing out on something is captured there. Still, you always bring such truthful meaning to your words.

    May you and yours have many more wonderful Christmases. :D

    Reply

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