Christmas Past: It was one of those family Christmas holidays, the kind that makes you no longer care about family Christmas holidays. Traditionally, my role was to set up the artificial tree and string the lights. My mother would then organize a tree-decorating party complete with family, friends, bells, tinsel, angel hair and Christmas cheer. At the end of the holidays, my mother would remove the decorations, and I would store the tree for the next year.
It was a particularly frantic Christmas holiday: my parents were not getting along, the alcohol consumption meter was on overload, and bickering, pestering, and petty rivalries ensued. Each family crisis was supplanted by the next in a nightmare of unseasonable behavior. What is it about Christmas that brings out the worst in some people?
There was no tree-decorating party that year: my mother decorated the tree by herself. I could have helped, but I was too busy living in my own little world. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was the only family available that year to help with the decorations. I was glad when the holidays were finally over, and I could fulfill my responsibilities by packing the tree away for the next year.
It was a fitting end to the Christmas of little cheer when I lost my prized Tiger’s Eye ring. As a crystal, a Tiger’s Eye is supposed to promote harmony and balance while releasing anxiety and fear. So much for that theory, I thought, as I searched the house from top to bottom for my missing ring. I was glad the holidays were over.
Family life settled down by the next Christmas. There was a spirit of reconciliation in the air, and I was looking forward to that year’s celebrations. The previous year’s despair gave way to a glimmer of hope. With guarded optimism, I set about unpacking the family Christmas tree when I heard a “clunk” as something dropped to the floor – it was the Tiger’s Eye ring that I had lost the year before. The ring must have been caught on a branch when I was packing the tree. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come. That Christmas was a good one, and as Christmas holidays go, it was certainly better than the few that preceded it.
Fortunately, Christmas is but once a year. My parents eventually separated, siblings divorced, friendships waned, and I managed to lose the Tiger’s Eye ring yet again.
Christmas Present: I detest the commercialization of Christmas. Walmart starts playing Christmas music after Remembrance Day, and the Dollar Store sells Christmas decorations after Halloween. I know I’m cynical, but I wish people would discuss world peace, love and kindness as enthusiastically as they put up dead trees for a holiday that benefits world corporations more than world compassion. That said, I still celebrate Orthodox Christmas. By that time, the marketing madness is over, and we get to buy gifts at Boxing Day sale prices.
I stopped decorating for the holidays many years ago. Other than a wedding band, I also stopped wearing rings, but for some reason, this year, I decided to go on a hunt for my missing Tiger’s Eye. I didn’t find it, but I did find four other misplaced rings: a birthstone, a graduation ring, a pinky-ring with a black stone of unknown origin, and a cubic zirconia diamond that belonged to my father. But no Tiger’s Eye. Perhaps my Tiger’s Eye is lost forever, or perhaps it is still waiting to be found.
Christmas Future: Am I 86 years old or 87? I can’t remember. Perhaps I’m older; maybe I’m younger. I’m not really sure. Ever since I moved into the seniors complex, things have been a bit fuzzy. It’s Christmas, at least that’s what they tell me. Not that it matters, but perhaps we will have a good meal tonight. My family is all gone, but I smile at the passersby as I think back to days of Christmas past. Sure, there were bad times, but there are also pleasant memories. I remember my dad taking us to the Salvation Army one Christmas. I was only three or four at the time. I don’t remember what present they gave me, but I do remember the spirit of kindness in the room. Isn’t it funny how the poor times seemed like the best times? It wasn’t about money or commercialism or who got the best gifts; it was about family. That was the best Christmas.
I did buy myself a nice gift this year. I ordered it online about a month ago, and it arrived yesterday. I don’t know why I bought it. It was just one of those items they were selling on the shopper’s channel that caught my attention – a Tiger’s Eye ring. I have a vague memory about another Tiger’s Eye ring that I can’t quite piece together, but there is something about my new ring that provides me with a sense of belonging.
I wear it proudly and show it off to all of my friends at the Christmas party. I even show it to Santa. We all know that Santa is the home’s chef, but he is a jolly man and has a kind word to say to us all. He admires my ring and seems to know that it has some underlying meaning or significance to me.
I find myself reflecting on Christmases past, but my thoughts are clouded by fleeting memories of family and friends no longer here. Not all the memories are positive, but then again, there were some happy family times along the way. Yes, there was something about a missing ring, but, for now, I am grateful for what I have today. I will hang onto these memories for as long as I can.
My only regret was not helping my mother with the Christmas tree so many years ago. For some reason, that memory remains intact. Perhaps I can help someone at the home decorate their room this year. Just in case, I will store my new Tiger’s Eye ring away for safe keeping. I have a habit of misplacing things these days. Perhaps next year I will dig out the box of Christmas decorations that I stored away. You never know what memories I might find.