“Waiting for Christmas,” Dec. 15, 2015

There he was, wrestling Christmas lights like they were alligators. He’d been itching to put those things up for weeks.

Some people seem to feel the Christmas spirit year-round. I like those people a lot. But for me, it’s hard to feel that spirit until Christmas finds me. I never know when it will happen. Only that it will. It seems doubtful, at times, but I keep hoping. And sooner or later, like magic, there it is.

Faith dims, but hope persists, singing of spring in a frozen heart like a redbird in the snow.

When I was 10, my stepfather twisted his ankle so badly he couldn’t work for six months. And suddenly, for my family, hard times got a lot harder.

Just before Christmas, my mother said Santa would be a bit late. I didn’t ask why. I knew. Children always know.

“How late?” I said.

“Maybe spring.”

Christmas Eve, my stepfather limped home with our only gift.

“Merry Christmas,” he said, sliding a box of tangerines under the tree. They tasted good. And in that taste, Christmas found me.

My first child was 4 and his sister was 2 when their dad had his first bout with cancer. The surgery went well; no other treatment was needed. But fear lingered like a bad case of flu.

Just before Christmas, I learned it wasn’t flu; I was pregnant. And in the promise of that baby, Christmas found me.

Twenty years ago, driving home from my mother’s funeral, my brother seemed lost in his thoughts. Joe is blind, but he often sees things others tend to miss.

It was December. The church had been decorated with garlands of fir and bright red bows.

“Did you smell all that lovely Christmas greenery?” I asked.

“I sure did,” he said. “It was beautiful. I know Mama loved it. I’ll bet this is her favorite Christmas ever.”

And in the vision of a blind man, Christmas found me.

The darkest Christmas of my life came two years later. I had to tell my children that their dad was losing his battle with cancer and had only weeks to live. They didn’t want to believe it. He’d beaten it so many times before they were sure he’d beat it again. But that night at dinner they looked in his eyes and saw what they’d refused to hear.

I had to let them see it. The hardest and best thing a parent can do is to let truth be truth.

After dinner, we opened gifts. Mostly, I recall the quiet. We’d never had a quiet Christmas.

Finally, my daughter, bless her, set up a putting game she’d given her dad and dared him and her brothers to beat her.

I was scraping dishes when I heard a sound I’ll never forget. My children were laughing with their father. I’d heard it before, countless times, but never like that. And in the beauty of that sound, Christmas found me.

For all the years that have followed, Christmas has found me wherever I’ve been, on the coast of California, with my children and grandchildren; in the mountains of the Carolinas, visiting family and friends; and lately, in my new life in the desert outside Las Vegas, with my not-so-new husband, who would decorate for Christmas in July, if I’d let him.

This morning, I watched from the window as he huddled in the yard stringing Christmas lights on the fence in 40-mph winds.

I wish you could’ve seen him. I can’t swear he was swearing, but his lips were moving and the air looked blue all around him. I laughed so hard I nearly snorted eggnog out of my nose.

And in that laughter, Christmas found me.

Christmas finds us when we least expect it, at odd times and strange places, in tastes and smells and sights unseen, in the promise of a baby, the laughter of children and the joy that is found in the depths of sorrow and in the gift of being alive.

To you and yours from me and mine, may Christmas find you, now and forever, happy and well.

Comments

  1. Glenda Arnold says:

    Looked forward to your stories every Sunday. Was so disappointed today when I realized our paper no longer carried it.

  2. Jeanette says:

    I looked forwarded every Sunday to read you article. I am going to miss you! You have a way to make me think of my life growing up which I think was great. We did not have much but my parents always made our Christmas a very special day. Thank you for coming into my home once a week to tell us about your life, and how appreciative you are about your life.
    Sorry to hear Dec 2015 is your last article, I am very sad, but thank you for brightening up my week with al your wonderful articles.
    God bless you and your family.

  3. cynthia says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you.

  4. Linda Myers says:

    I enjoy your column. So real and heartfelt. I feel I have gotten to know you and your life.
    Thanks for making everyday memories seem so worthwhile.

  5. Judith Tinsley Jacobs says:

    What a beautiful column. After loosing my mom on Thanksgiving this year I’ve been waiting for Christmas to find me. Your beautiful story helped me remember many wonderful Christmas memories and how blessed I was to have my mom for so many years. Thank you for helping Christmas find me. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  6. Cathy says:

    Thank you for sharing your family with the world. I enjoy your stories so much and look forward to every Sunday morning when I can read your column. I too found Christmas after reading it today….my daughter is expecting her first child and my first grandchild. I feel so very blessed. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  7. Jeannette Buck says:

    Oh, Lady! You do say it so well. Thank you!

  8. Gloria Rivera says:

    You have a way of stringing words together that often bring tears to my eyes. I so admire your gift. I love to read your column and try not to miss a single one. . Thank you. You are

  9. Thomas says:

    Christmas found me when I read your column this morning. Thank you for sharing your stories and your gift for telling them. May you and yours be especially blessed this Christmas — again!

  10. Phil Erben says:

    Sharon, your column touches my heart each time I read it. I feel as if you were one of my sisters. This Christmas column is no exception! Your experiences mirror my own and I feel a personal connection. I lost my dad exactly 8 years ago today a scant 4 days before Christmas and I had a hard time with Christmas that year but we put on a brave face on for the sake of my young grandchildren. I , too, usually have to wait for Christmas to find me and your column this year has helped me in that regard. In the words of one of the previously written comments please don’t stop writing your column, it brings great joy to me and all your faithful readers.

  11. Lisa says:

    Truly beautiful and heartfelt column. Makes me feel as if I’ve known you all my life. Thank you for sharing your gift with the rest of us. Merry Christmas!

  12. Bonnie says:

    I try to never miss your column – my favorite part of the Sunday paper. My mother has been ill and we’ve been so busy dealing with hospital and rehab. facilities. I’m trying to find Christmas amongst the chaos and your column reminded me that I will. I loved a column that you wrote last year about not needing to travel to all the places that people write about in Christmas letters. I thought I had saved it but it seems not to be found. Is it possible to find it printed somewhere?

  13. Diane says:

    Love this!

  14. Colette Mayfield says:

    Thank you Sharon for all of your columns but especially this one. I realize that it’s okay if I don’t feel all the HO HO HO and the FA LA LA. This past April my husband of 42 years told me to move out of our home and go to Cuero where our daughter and son in law and their 3 beautiful babies live. He was done with our marriage and to this very day I do not know why I became “unwanted”.
    I know I will “find” Christmas but it’s been hard. I am looking forward to 2016 as a new start, a new beginning. Maybe my Christmas will come as a New Year.

  15. Nancy Quackenbush says:

    In reading your words, Christmas has found me. As always, you can make me laugh and cry in one column. Love you! Nancy Quackenbush

  16. shashi says:

    Thank you Sharon for reminding us to keep the spirit up ^ , we have crossed a bigger part of journey of life but life is still beautiful and I always look forward to see Christmas decorations all around . Children wait for a simple toy wrapped in wrapping paper ,we wait for their smile and life is bliss to share that with all other people too . You have a blessed Christmas !! New year and all years to follow !! Best wishes and love to you and all your family !!

  17. Sharon,
    You simply have outdone yourself with this incredible column. Thank you for enriching my life once again. I likely am not alone in that sentiment.
    Christmas blessings to you and yours.
    Bruce

  18. Shelley Sipe says:

    Thank you for helping me find it again Sharon.. God bless you and Merry Christmas..

  19. Jill says:

    So beautiful. Thank you for helping me remember to find Christmas amidst all the hustle and chaos.

  20. Vanessa L says:

    Looking back at my childhood, I now realize that we didn’t get nearly as much from Santa as other kids, but Christmas was still magical to us. As an adult I always seem to be so busy trying to make the magic happen for the kids that I have trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. My husband and I have been talking about how in a few years our grandchildren will be grown and out of the house, and we will finally have time to relax and focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Until then, I’m thankful that I’m married to a man who always finds his Christmas spirit the day after Thanksgiving!

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and thank you for sharing such heartwarming stories throughout the year!

  21. RoxieAnn says:

    Thank you. I hadn’t found Christmas until I read your article. As always, thank you for sharing your life and family.

  22. Charlotte Atkins says:

    Dear Sharon. I love this column! My best to you and Mark. So glad you are still sharing your soul-stirring writing. My Christmas joy has not been as abundant the past couple of years after deep loss, but I am trying to reclaim it. And in reading your column, Christmas found me …
    Blessings, Charlotte

  23. Sydney Love says:

    What a beautiful story. I have the same feelings as you about Christmas. Some years it takes it’s time finding me and this seems to be one of them, but I have hope that it will find me as it always has. I love reading what you write. I am never disappointed. I don’t subscribe to a newspaper but I get an email when you have a new column and I can hardly wait to read it. It is like a visit from a precious friend and I just want to savor every word that you say. Lots of times in life things happen and some little phrase that you have said in the past will come to mind and it helps me through what is going on in my life at that moment. Yes life is more beautiful because of you and all that you share with your readers. Please don’t ever stop writing. You make me think of things in a way that I never would have had it not been for you, my friend. Never quit! Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family. They are blessed to have you in their life.

  24. Garnett zamboni says:

    This certainly touches the truth of Christmas spirit. Some years it eludes me, but the following years make up the loss. This has been a year of challenges, strength, and discovery making the Christmas brighter than ever. Your column is the frosting on the sugar cookies. Thank you for sharing with all of us. You make life a happier more beautiful place to live. Blessings to you and yours.

  25. Ginny says:

    Ah, the tangerines. I always think of you with clementines at Christmas ever since you first told me about their importance in you in your childhood! Funny how dear one’s traditions become our own.

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