"But, the great Master said, "I gave a gift to each,
To charm, to strengthen, and to teach.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Christmas my grandson was 5, I received the following early morning call:
Grandma, know what I got for Christmas? I got a rifle. Know what else I got? I got chicken pox.
I remembered our conversation the following year when, in addition to a new wallet, two sweaters, 11 loaves of bread, and scads of sweets, I got a horrid case of the flu. A couple years later I thought of my speckled grandchild again when, along with my gifts and blessings, I was involved in a car accident and got a sprained wrist.
Grandson, do you know what I got for Christmas this year? I got older. Im not sure Id have noticed if the following things hadnt happened in the space of a few pre-Christmas days.
First, sales clerks and ticket sellers started giving me senior citizen discounts without even asking if I were old enough to qualify. Seems like only last week I had to request the discount because no one thought to ask. Then, after a tree-trimming, cookie-baking, light-seeing weekend with your younger cousins, I was so tired when I dropped them off I could hardly drive home. But the clincher that Id crossed that nebulous line between middle-age and elderly came with another phone call a couple weeks before Christmas.
The caller and I had met once before - I had to jog my aging memory to remember where.
Mrs. Seaborn, she said, Im a Girl Scout leader, and tomorrow my girls and I are going to see The Nutcracker. We have an extra ticket and wed like you to go with us.
What a nice gesture, I thought, but why me? Maybe shed read my newspaper columns, or Id impressed her in some way when we met. After a few moments of self-adulation I asked why they had chosen me.
Well, she said, for our project this year, the girls have decided they want to do things for our senior citizens....
It was another commitment that kept me from accepting their invitation, not the fear that I couldnt have hobbled up the stairs at the Imperial Theater.
Perhaps I delude myself by thinking I got wiser, too - a quality thats supposed to go with age - but at least this Christmas I got more appreciative. In an era when time evaporates and its easier to pay someone else to do our chores or leave the volunteering to others, Im suddenly more aware of the things other people do to make my life easier or more enjoyable - like the woman who spends two afternoons a month cleaning my house, the person who delivers my newspaper on time every morning, and the friend who drives me to the garage to pick up my car.
But, in the category of Christmas gifts, Im thinking of how much enjoyment I received this year from the dazzling lights and seasonal displays everywhere I looked. There were two in particular:
Grovetown, Im not sure who is more thrilled by your lighting display in the center of town, my 3-year-old granddaughter or I. We stopped by the other night, waved back at the waving Santas, petted the reindeer, sat in the gazebo, and tried to count all those lights. What a lot of work on someones part, but what a delight for children of all ages to see.
The other spectacular was the live nativity scene in Bethlehem, sometimes called Martinez Methodist Church. All the residents were in costume and character.
Welcome to Bethlehem, they said. Have you seen the baby? Hes in there, by the animals. The innkeeper apologized because he didnt have room for us to sleep, but assured us the stable was clean enough for the newborn baby he pointed to with pride.
We fed the animals, warmed ourselves by the fire in the town square, sampled fruit and cider, listened to the "angels from the realms of glory," and for a few moments felt like we, too, were part of the really, really true meaning of Christmas.
So thank you family, friends, decorating homeowners, Columbia County churches and communities, and a very loving troop of Girl Scouts for one of the best Christmases Ive ever had.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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