JOYCE WHITIS

Christmas is a time of celebration but sometimes feeling like decking the halls with bells of holly is hard to do. This is true for those whose family ties are suffering from separation as well as those who have lost a loved one.

This will be the third Christmas without my lifetime companion and after Tom was gone, finding a reason to decorate the house and put up a tree was a stumbling block for me. Every step was crowded with memories and they became so powerful that before I knew it, there was a smile on my face as I remembered Christmases past. Staying stuck in the past is not good but still it’s ok to look back and remember those special good times.

I remember when our kids were really little and it was almost Christmas. Gifts for Tommy and Barbara were hidden away, waiting for Santa and we were at breakfast when our little girl announced that she was getting a “play” car for Christmas; one that she could ride in. Tom and I exchanged looks across the table. There was no peddle car on the request she had made to Santa weeks ago, and here it was almost Christmas Eve. We were young parents and we wanted our children to have everything they asked for so this announcement was a real shock. She picked up a fork of scrambled eggs, smiled sweetly and announced, “It will be blue!”

Later in the day I went to town, leaving the children with Tom while I searched for a peddle-car, any peddle car, anywhere. Western Auto on the square, where the tattoo place is now and including the empty building beside it, was THE toy place in Stephenville in the ‘50’s. I found Jack Harding, the owner and asked if he had a peddle car left in his store.

“I just got one in this morning,” he said, as he led me up stairs to the balcony. He looked back over his shoulder. “I hope you like blue. This is the first one we’ve ever had in this color!”

On Christmas morning, Barbara showed complete happiness as she hopped in the little blue car and rode around and around the car port as Tom and I rejoiced at one more miracle in life.

We always packed up the toys and gifts a day or two before Christmas and drove the two-hundred miles to Chillicothe. Those good times with my parents, my brother and sisters and their families are memories to relive again and again. Every bed, cot, pallet and the living room couch was occupied on Christmas Eve. The crowded conditions only made for more laughter and better harmony when we gathered around the piano as Mother played and we all sang “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Silent Night”.

Tommy was seven and his wish for a bicycle was about to be granted. In order to get it in the truck of the car for the trip to Chillicothe, Tom had to take the front wheel off the shiny red Schwin and reassemble it once the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning Tommy learned to ride a 2-wheeler on the street in front of the house I grew up in. I have a mental picture of that white clapboard house with the wrap-around porch and picket fence. There is a little boy on a red bicycle working hard to keep from falling over as he makes the U turn at the next corner and rides back to me. I wouldn’t trade that picture for anything.

Over the 55 years that Tom and I had together, there are many great Christmas memories but one extra special memory is about our gifts to each other.

Sometimes we bought something we both wanted, such as a new couch, a car or one time, a boat. Those were gifts we shared and they made us happy. Sometime during the last years of our marriage, Tom would turn to me a few days before Christmas and say, “Hell, Joyce, I don’t know what to get for you. Here, go buy whatever you want.”

His words would be followed by a blank check. Cool!

Last week, after finishing lunch with a friend, we went shopping together. As we moved along the cases of jewelry, suddenly I stopped in my tracks as this beautiful turquoise necklace with matching earrings spoke to me. I reached out to touch it, loving the color, my favorite shade of blue and as I admired the craftsmanship of the jewelry, I swear that a voice I’d heard before, whispered in my ear, “Here, get something for your self.”

My tears are tears of happiness for all those great memories of the past and all the wonderful ones to come..