Sunday, December 27, 2015

Threshold of a new year

On the threshold of a new year 2016. Standing on this edge of a new year, we find it hard to leave the memories of 2015. A year of joy, tragedy, loss and gain. We have met each with the strength and the wisdom that life has granted us.

The minister called all the children to the front of the church. Emma was eagerly holding her mom's hand while Nolan was a bit apprehensive. The service was wonderful. As the Christmas story was told, the children were asked to participate. First up was the call for a Joseph. A boy of about nine stepped forward. Next came the need for a Mary. Sweet Emma stepped forward in all of her three years oldness. The congregation chuckled. A long blue drape was placed over her little head with her sweet face in all its innocence concentrating on her task. Next came the sheep. Nolan with limbs shaking stepped forward. The tiniest of the lambs and definitely the most timid.

The short service was filled with heavenly wonder. A little Mary held her baby close and lovingly moved the blankets from his face. Joseph loomed above her older in age as was Joseph to Mary. Emma knew what she was doing when she raised her hand.  She wanted to be near the baby. She wanted to be sweet Mary mother of baby Jesus. When the children turned to the audience, everyone was quiet. I swear I would not have been surprised to see a light shine upon Emma's sweet face. A spirit touched us. A Spirit that descended and told us that no matter what happens in this world, we are loved. A Spirit that told us to look for the face of God in all ages, all colors, all faiths, all happening of our lives

There is no way to know for sure that Christ was born on December 25. The date was thought by most to have been set on the end of winter solstice. I have no problem with the birth date. It doesn't matter. It is just a date. It is the event that matters. An event that is timeless and dateless. It is what we learned about helping others. It is about celebration of life. It is about bringing everyone from the richest to the poorest together. It is a story of a baby who brought hope, forgiveness and everlasting life.

A little girl in a blue drape wore her costume with more passion and depth than any I had seen before. She reminded me that we are Christ in the world no matter what our ages. She reminded me that as we leave an old year behind, we take with us the memories and, hopefully, by these memories make the new year and the future more blessed for others.

For many this new year will be difficult. I pray for you and with you that in this gift of love, we all find peace and hope. Happy New Year, my friends.

Monday, December 21, 2015

And a reindeer named Rudolph

Bubble lights. Angle hair. An orange and nuts. Rudolph and little dolls. Stencils on windows. Icicles and  little village. Christmas elf and, well, you get the idea. Memories from Neff Road. Pieces of Christmas that brought joy to the Loxley household...and those that hang on my tree still.

The big box was brought out each Christmas. A box that seemed to tall to peek into. A box that was even more exciting than the Christmas gifts. I am not sure where that box resided during the rest of the year, but when Dad hefted it into the living room, we knew that Christmas was officially here.

We tried to wait patiently while Dad put on the lights. I was usually parked next to a bubble light just waiting for it to heat up. If it was sluggish, Dad flicked it with his fingers and the bubbles danced. One by one the ornaments were taken from the magical box and handed to the Loxley daughters. Once the Angel, with spun glass hair, was placed atop the tree, Mom opened the box of icicles. One by one we draped them over the limbs. Once in awhile June was known to toss them when no one was looking. Well, no one but her little sister. Mom put up the little cardboard houses for the Christmas village with a mirror in the middle on which little figures skated.

A package of stencils was opened while Mom prepared the Glass Wax. We painted over the stencils adding Santa's face, angels, all sorts of wonderful Christmas designs to the big, old windows in this magical house. Bit by bit Christmas came to the house back the lane. A visit to Rikes in Dayton was extra special. Children with noses pasted to the big windows, watching elves pop out of snow drifts and Santa peeking out of a chimney. Then off to Santa's Village.

In 1951 the cartoon version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer was released in movie theatres. In 1949 Gene Autry sang the song about this red-nosed guy, topping music charts. About this same time, the family was riding the elevator up to the top floor to see Rudolph. The littlest of the family was busy looking at her new doll that had just arrived in the mail. A sweet doll, Bonny Braids, who was the daughter of Dick Tracy and Tess Trueheart. (Sure wish I still had that doll!).

We sang carols at the piano next to the tree. Seems we sang them all day long during those special days. We sang of a baby in a manger as well as a guy who was coming to town. We sang at home and we sang at church. We waited for that baby in a manger. Our hearts were warmed by the congregation surrounding us who were neighbors and friends. People who were in essence, all family.

Our sock on Christmas morning sagged with the weight of an orange and a few nuts. A small present might be hiding in that length of that sock. A simple gift might be under the tree. Our hearts were bursting with love for family and friends who stopped by. The same love I feel today for those memories and dear ones. I thank God for the gift of remembering, for the fullness of life I had living in that house with such a dear family. Gifts of music, simple life, loving neighbors continue to fill my heart.

Merry Christmas, my dear ones. I hope this column has jiggled a few memories loose that you can savor this holiday season. May the memories you make today be equally cherished by those you love.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Snow

We prayed for it. It filled our winter dreams. Sure we wanted Santa to come bringing gifts. Excitedly, we could not wait to put up the tree. But more than all of that, we wanted snow. Big soft flakes falling on broken stalks of corn in the front field. Flakes floating past the upstairs window where a little girl sat watching, waiting. Snow.

When we moved to Wisconsin, we knew that we would always have a white Christmas. It sometimes began the end of September. Mountains of snow pushed between the highway lanes and piled outside of town. A constant digging of a path for the dog to go out and clearing the driveway so the snowplow could once more close us in. It was not Ohio snow.

Perhaps it was because we had some winters where snow was scarce or it quickly became slush that we relished those time when we would be snowed in and school canceled. Oh, having school canceled was a bonus, but the snow was the prize. Those first flakes drew us to the window where we were hypnotized by the gently falling snow or thrilled by the wind blowing it as it swirled and mounted right before our eyes.

Dad bundled up and took the tractor with the plow on front out to help stranded travelers. He would come home later to tell us all the stories he had gathered that day. While he worked, we played. Neighbor kids came over with their sleds. It was the best time to live in a house on a hill. Geneva and Marilyn pulled we little ones on the sleds. Then we doubled up, flying down the hill and out into the field. We did not have snowsuits. I usually had two pair of pants, a jacket, mittens and a sock hat all of which not only kept me warm but was a great buffer if I fell from the sled. I still remember the nearness of Mom when she pulled the scarf up over my nose and mouth. She was not always tender, so this extra bit of care was memorable.

Of course, when we came back into the house, absolutely everything we wore was soaked. Mom unwrapped us, placing the wet clothing on the hot radiator. A fire blazed in the fireplace. It was waiting for cold, wet children and a daddy who had been out all day on snow duty. Hot cocoa and toasted marshmallows, hot dogs and potato chips. Mom was always ready. She knew that a tired family needed some pampering.

I will never forget the feelings captured on those days. I cannot see a snowflake without remembering the little girl watching through the window. I hold dear the children who were my dearest friends. And, I am always reminded of sweet Marilyn Lavy who left us much too soon.

It is a season of gathered memories, and truly, I think there is no more potent reminder that the first snowflakes that come to stay for such a short time. Snow.