It’s amazing to me how many memories Christmas brings back. In particular, I think of my Grandma Donice. She died several years ago, but I still think of her often. She always brings a smile to my face. Whether it was memories of her playing a game of croquet or softball with us as kids up on the farm in West Virginia, or the “swimming” exercises in the kitchen where we would go through the motions of practicing our strokes and the whole house would shake (literally)! We knew when we were with Grandma, we were sure to have fun.
Or perhaps it was memories of Grandma teaching us to play poker “secretly” in the upstairs bedroom that still brings a smile to my face. She knew very little about poker and cheated every chance she could get—if we didn’t catch her first. The numbers always added up in her favor. And she was always the “score keeper!” It probably was due more to the fact that she only had a 7th grade education (she grew up during the Great Depression) and numbers weren’t her strong suit, but catching her sure was fun. We’d laugh and giggle and point our finger and say: “Grandma, you’re cheating again!” She’d blush and smile and say in (almost) disbelief, “Nooooo!” And we’d laugh some more.
Grandma loved to party. And by party we mean cheese puffs, popcorn, orange soda and lots of games —games like rummy cards, Chinese checkers, or dominoes. When I was in college, Grandma used to buy cheese puffs on sale and hide them away until I came home on break . . . and we’d always play when I came home to visit. Every year we brought in the New Year the same way, until she died. I loved my Grandma.
But when I think of Christmas, two very distinct memories come to my mind and yet teach a very valuable lesson at the same time. I remember one Christmas we used the empty wrapping paper tubes and played them like “trumpets” in a band. We made silly faces … followed by silly sounds and an “orchestra” was born! Our whole family participated, not just the kids. And I remember it fondly to this day!
The other memory surrounds the Christmas tree. Grandpa Harvey would always go out and cut one down from the farm. It normally was scraggly looking with lots of empty spaces, but we didn’t care. Grandma didn’t have many ornaments, so she would “make do with what she had.” One of her favorite things was drawing and cutting out angels from the Styrofoam platters that meat comes packaged in at the grocers. (She never liked to waste anything and She LOVED angels.) When she was done, she would place them affectionately on the tree as if they were “priceless” pieces of art. Other “ornaments” she would find would be pretty pieces of jewelry like brooches or a pretty ballpoint pen. I always remember the ballpoint pen. It must have been a gift. I don’t think she ever used it—because she thought it was “too pretty to use.” It struck me as funny. But Grandma never did anything that was ordinary.
And you know what, now that she’s gone, the empty wrapping paper tubes and ballpoint pen have taught me a lesson. It taught me to look around and discover joy in unexpected places, to see beauty in God’s nature, and be thankful for what we have—because we have so much! Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures in life that bring the greatest joy. Chances are, years from now, I won’t remember the many presents I received at Christmas. But one thing is for certain, I will remember my Grandma and the many fond memories I had with her.
Even though my son is older now, he told me a memory he has of his Grandma Audrey who passed away several Christmases ago. He said, “Remember Mom when Grandma rolled down the hill with me? That was fun.” He was only two years old at the time and his Grandma was battling against cancer, but she managed on a warm spring day to teach him how to roll down the little hill beside their farmhouse in Wisconsin. He had never done it before and his Grandma was determined to teach him… and roll they did! They laughed and giggled all the way to the bottom. I still remember the smiles on their faces. My son still remembers to this day. And you know what, I think he always will!
How about you? Are you making any memories with your family? Just because the holidays are over, doesn’t mean you have to stop having fun. In all the busyness of this new year, don’t lose focus on what’s really important. Remember, God’s goodness isn’t revealed through things, but through people.
Now go make some memories!