Bah! Humbug! Sometimes she could truly relate to old Ebenezer Scrooge.
The radio stations had started playing Christmas music way too early, making the sounds more irritating than jolly by December. Good grief, the Halloween candy had barely hit the clearance bins before the rollicking rhythms of "Jingle Bell Rock" were pounding the air waves.
Asinine ads proclaimed less than five shopping days left until the big event, ironically touting "no interest until 2008" on items so overpriced they had to be paid for in installments.
She even found the red nailpolish Johnny Phong painstakingly painted on her fingers and toes strangely annoying.
What in the world was the matter? She'd always loved Christmas - the decorating, the shopping, the special cooking.
Even after her daddy died on Dec. 23 of her 17th year, she'd managed to slowly recapture some equilibrium for Mama's sake. Later, she'd happily focused on making the holidays wonderful for her own husband and children.
But now, she felt like Hamlet, wandering morosely around Elsinore; everything seemed "stale, flat, and unprofitable; rank and gross in nature."
The tinsel looked more gaudy than festive. The sweets were cloying. The greetings seemed hollow.
Maybe life had just become too hard. The children had grown into teenagers, and though, in reality, they were both very good boys, they still were "challenging" at times. She'd nearly imploded last summer when she'd caught the younger one experimenting with cigarettes out behind the shed.
Her dear husband, always so strong and capable, had become very sick, and it seemed all the doctors could do was practice.
Her beloved mother, gone on two years earlier, had taken with her last precious sigh the one safe harbor remaining, being the sole person among her inner circle who was undoubtedly stronger than she.
Her prodigal brother remained a cold and hostile stranger, and her sister, though a sweet and blessed companion, had numerous dragons of her own to slay. Several of her best friends were alternately ill, overstressed and heartbroken, sometimes all at once.
So now, with no money and constant anxieties, she was supposed to be "merry"? Please! God would never expect that out of one poor human. Would He?
But one gloomy Saturday afternoon, in a half-hearted attempt to spur a little bit of cheer from her dejected spirit, she decided to put up the Christmas tree. She honestly didn't have any desire whatsoever to tangle with a brittle, broken-down piece of fakery, but what else could she do?
She dragged out the dusty boxes and slowly began rummaging through the dozens of old, familiar ornaments. Here was the one made from half an eggshell with a tiny 3-D sleighride scene inside, and there the treasures her babies had crafted so intently at school or church. Here was a bell from her great-grandmother's day. How in the world had it escaped shattering all these years? Here were the dolls and stuffed animals Mama had dressed so beautifully in lace and satin.
She was straining to place the red-headed angel a former student had given her on the pinnacle of the wobbly bush when it happened. Somehow her foot slipped off the ladder, her knee twisted, and she was falling at lightning speed. A sharp, brutal jab punched her right temple violently, and she felt as if her entire skull had been impaled on a pike. Out of the corner of a tearful eye, she saw the offending table corner, and then nothing but white, with golden sparkles. So this is dying, she thought.
When she came to, only moments later, her head in the lap of a Little Woman, her first thought was one of gratitude, and then her second was of shame. The pain of the giant lump still pounded, but now her tears flowed for other reasons. Apparently, we sometimes need a swift knock on the head to regain any sense at all.
Forgive me, Lord, she said. Forgive my weakness, my whining, my worrying, all this sound and fury, signifying nothing. You are the only reason I need to keep going. You came, You saved, You loved - even wretches like me. For that, I can still say Merry Christmas with all my heart, soul, and mind.
Marley would be proud.
Mindy Jeffers is a Martinez resident.
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