It was a strange place to seek for a King –
In a stable, lowly and bare.
But shepherds from Judean hills
Found the little Lord Jesus there.
~Poem by Mrs. Roy L. Peifer
This afternoon, as I was watching the twinkling, white Christmas lights transform our yard into a fairy land, I suddenly had a flashback. It was a snowy, cold Christmas during my junior high school years. The holiday spirit was in the air and sleighbells jingled on the horsedrawn sleigh, as our youth group traveled to sing Christmas carols for “shut ins.” It was my first experience as a caroler.
As we stood in the snow, wrapped warmly with scarves, hats, mittens and boots, we sang the carols of old. My heart leapt when the door opened and smiling faces greeted us. Often, we were asked in for hot chocolate or wassail or popcorn or short visits. No mug of hot chocolate has ever surpassed the warmth, fragrance or flavor of that first carolers’ visit for me. We were so cold standing on the snow-covered stoop; the only warmth that could compare with that mug of chocolate was the feeling inside, knowing that we brought Christmas joy to a senior who might otherwise spend the entire season alone.
It was this experience that inspired me to begin a collection of tiny, hand-carved wooden “carolers” that are now in our living room, displayed on a chest. Each time I look at them, I think of that special night.
Another memory makes it way into my mind – a trip to London and a visit to the “Charles Dickens Area” of the city. It was like a trip back in time! It looked just as I pictured it after reading “A Christmas Carol” as a child! Victorian buildings hung with signs reading: Meeting Room, Remedy Shoppe, and Free House. Chickens and geese hanging from large hooks in front of the meat market (only today they are fake!) I recall, peering through the multi-pane windows of a China Shoppe at the porcelain plates displayed on shelves. I could almost hear the voices of Scrooge and Tiny Tim echoing in my mind.
“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this!
Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. “What’s today?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes. “Why, Christmas day!” replied the boy. “It’s Christmas day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it.”
As Richard and I stand upon the ledge of our 80th year of life, time takes on new meaning. Much like Scrooge on that glorious Christmas morning of his redemption, the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are more perceptible to one who has enjoyed 80 Christmases.
For Richard and me, 60 of them have been shared together. So many memories collected in the album of our hearts. Age blesses one with greater patience to savor the taste of each day as it fades into a new year. Like the soft leather of a favorite glove or comfortable shoe, time becomes a warm, familiar friend as we enter our golden years. Time – past, present, and future – also becomes as precious as a cherished treasure.
Richard and I were both born in the year 1937. The Great Depression would soon be overcast by World War II. When I look at photographs of life that year, I can see how gray the world was in ‘37. Yes, the prints are black and white, yet, I see the gray shadows of the hardship and hard work of that time.
It was the year that the Golden Gate Bridge defied gravity; Joe Louis was the first African American man to win the heavyweight boxing championship; Ronald Reagan made his silver screen debut.
In the midst of these triumphs were fateful defeats; Amelia Earhart disappeared; the Hindenburg exploded; millions lost their homes due to flooding of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. And, on June 4, 1937, a huge dust storm swept westward. The Dust Bowl devastated OK farm land. It is a miracle that my tenant farmer parents survived the hardships of the 30’s. Christmas would be difficult in such a year, were it not for the miracle and revelation of a Savior.
The 1940’s hold my earliest childhood memories. Despite our poverty, the cold of Oklahoma winters blowing in through flimsy walls and floorboards, despite rations, war, or brothers and cousins on the frontline – Christmas was glorious as a child! I can still hear the echoes of carols proclaiming the birth of Christ. I can smell Mom’s fudge, cookies and pies baking in the oven. I can see the glint of foil icicles hanging on pine branches. I can feel the excitement of Christmas morning – opening our one wrapped gift and the weight of my stocking, donated by the church, filled with peppermint canes, nuts, and an orange. Christmases of the 40’s were simple and sweet. Christ was the centerpiece, not the ornamented tree.
The 1950’s found me in bobby socks, saddle oxfords, and poodle skirts – thank goodness Mom could sew! I was a teenager, rocking around the Christmas tree.
Our parents and older siblings, who defended our freedom in WWII, were known as The Greatest Generation. Teens of the 50’s have been called, The Luckiest Generation. We would be the beneficiaries of economic recovery following the war – employment and careers would come more easily to us than they had to our parents. “Lucky” did not excuse us from hard work! I would be the first in my family to graduate from college, very blessed indeed. And, in 1957, I married my high school sweetheart, Richard. It was a decade of great change and growth for me – as it is for all teenagers of every generation.
The 1960’s and 70’s were explosive decades on the social, cultural, and political landscapes. The innocence of a previous era seemed to unravel on city streets around the globe. Richard and I were insulated – perhaps isolated – due to our preoccupation with newly married life, which fades into the challenges of career, children, and responsibility. It was a decade of “busy” Christmases.
1974 was the year I launched a new career in real estate. From that year forward, no decade would ever be the same – I would never be the same.
Enter the 1980’s and 90’s – these years would find Richard and me riding high, then laying low, only to rise once again like a phoenix from the ashes. We built a successful business with Jerry Brown and Ruth Honeycutt. We diversified our investments and watched them all tank in the Oil Bust. The Lord would use these events to proclaim His presence in our lives – He would lead me to Keller Williams. The rest, as they say, is history.
These would be years of birth and rebirth. Our three grandchildren were born. Grandchildren change everything! The new roles as “Grammy” and “Papa” would certainly change Christmas! Grandbabies to spoil, new minds to shape – both are blessings and new reasons to praise God.
Today, I sit comfortably in a cushioned chair beside the hearth at Stonemill, our dream home built for those precious grandkids. I find myself in the company of the spirit of Christmas Past – reminiscing, gazing into the little wooden faces of the carolers who stand poised on the edge of Christmas Present.
As I look back upon the gems which crown this current year, I realize how many new pages have been added to our album of memories. Dickens was so right to say: “Happy, Happy Christmas, that can remind us of our childhood days, recall the pleasures of youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!”
What treasure might Christmas Future hold?
“I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be a better man than I was, I am prepared to bear your company with a thankful heart,” said Scrooge to the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come.
My prayer is that, like Scrooge, we all strive to be more tomorrow than we are today. May we each have greater adventures and make more memories with the ones we love. May we demonstrate greater kindness and generosity to those in need. May we be more grateful. May we love more, pray more, and glorify His Kingdom more.
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us, Every One!”