I awoke early this morning, nothing unusual, but with only days left until Christmas, I felt an urgent need to write a holiday message for the blog. I love the early hours because, in the quiet of the dawn, I find my best ability to assemble my thoughts and focus on work and writing…right after I check my Facebook!
Okay, so I admit it. Facebook is my second tabbed ’home page’ - and I’m always logged in. Since I work at home by myself, it is my morning newspaper, coffebreak, lunch with friends, and time at the watercooler to find out what’s going on out there - locally, and elsewhere in the world. And I’m not alone.
I originally started ‘facebooking’ as a way to keep up with my teenage girls – I just had to join in order to see their photos. It was early on, so it took awhile for people ‘my age’ to finally get on Facebook. But eventually, the time came when I realized that I could ditch my paid membership at Classmates and reconnect with old friends on Facebook for free!
So, now when I get those messages from Classmates telling me someone has either visited my page or signed my guestbook, I immediately delete the message knowing that, to solve the mystery of who from my past is trying to reconnect with me, I would have to pay again. As I send the message to the recycle bin, I wonder: “What they heck? Have they not yet heard about Facebook?”
Within the last couple of years, some of my old high school friends have finally ‘friended’ me on Facebook, and Lisa Schultze Hill is one of them. After 35 years of completely losing touch, we reconnected and found that we have much more in common now than we did way back then. We weren’t exactly best buds in high school, but having graduated from a small class of 104 people, we did know each other. What is fun about connecting with old friends is that it keeps alive memories that, if not shared with others, tend to eventually be forgotten. Lisa quickly revived a nearly forgotten memory when she reminded me that she was “The Tin Man” to my “Cowardly Lion” in a high school skit of the Wizard of Oz.
So, on this morning’s visit to Facebook, on one of those ‘post it if you agree’ statuses, Lisa shared a personal story. It’s a real Christmas story, much better than one I could have written, and it’s a part of her past that I would have never known, had it not been for Time’s Man of the Year. Thanks, Mark for connecting me with my new, old friend Lisa.
A Truly Different Christmas
It was going to be a strange Christmas that 2001. My husband of 21 years and I were separating. After a year, I would file for divorce. He was going to Florida to his mother’s for Christmas, the first Christmas my kids would not see him at this spiritual time. I knew my parents were headed out to Missouri to visit my sister who lived there, and I called them and asked if it would be possible for them to take my twin 16 yr old daughters on the trip. A trip would make it very different for them to be away from home, but maybe the strangeness of no father around for the holiday would be little less hurtful.
That left my 8 year old son and I home alone for Christmas. I decided to do something very different that year, something memorable that he would never forget. I discussed my idea with him, and he was excited and favorable towards it.
There would be small gifts on Christmas morning this year for the two of us, and very few of those. We decided to pool our money and bought ingredients to make baked confections and sweet breads, with money we could have spent on Christmas gifts for everybody and for each other. For a two week period, we made dough for cookies and refrigerated or froze it and when the time came, on December 23 and 24th, we baked up a storm our tiny kitchen. Many different kinds of cookies, mini sweet breads, brownies, cookie bars. We had ten trays with a Christmas motif we purchased for a dollar each at a local dollar store. On each tray, we arranged our confections as to be pleasing to the eye, and late in the afternoon of December 24th, we gently laid the trays in the cargo area of the old station wagon and headed out to make our deliveries, with my son riding shot gun in the front seat of the “tank”.
Our goal was to try to bless people with kindness, to let them know they were thought about at this special time of year. The first delivery was to an elderly man who monitored the fenced county dumpsters in our district. My Dad had told me he was sick, and after the holiday he was to have surgery. We took a tray to him at the manned dump site, which brought tears to his eyes. My son observed this.
Our second delivery was to my son’s barber at the shop in town. He was finishing up his last few hair cuts when we walked in with the tray. Many times he had spotted my son for a hair cut (and myself) when I had no money to pay him. We wanted to thank him for his kindness to us. His wife had just had her second baby, and she wasn’t doing much in the kitchen this year. He was delighted that there would be some special home baked goods to share with her when he arrived home. To sit cuddled with her after their young son and infant were asleep, in front of the fire with a hot drink and something sweet to nibble was a perfect thing to do with his lovely wife.
There was a delivery to a woman I used to work with, divorced with three kids, living in a slum lord type home that she could barely afford on her low income. She was not the domestic baking type, and I wanted her children to have something special for Christmas Eve and morning. Ken watched her children as they hustled the tray to the kitchen, and what was common place in our house became something special in their house. He saw their excitement as they examined what was on the tray, one telling the other they “hoxied” this cookie or that.
We delivered another tray to the parents of a friend of mine that had died a few years before from brain stem cancer. I told them that I felt Sharon had asked me to share with them, hugged them tight, accepted their tears and thanks, and left.
During that afternoon, we kept delivering the trays to sick people, older people, lonely people. One tray was left. I told my son this last tray was going to someone special, and this was going to be a hard delivery. He asked why, and I said you must watch and listen, I am not going to tell you.
I pulled up in front of Mabel’s house. She also was a woman who I used to work with. Before she recently retired from the plant, her husband passed away. After she retired, her daughter passed away from heart trouble, and the daughter was in her twenties. I saw Mabel’s car in the carport, but the lights were low in the house. Through the windows, I did not see the first Christmas decoration, the first blink of a tree light. Ken and I walked up to the door, I had the tray in my hands, Ken knocked on the door. No response to the knock. I said “Ken knock again, harder this time.” He did, no response. I told him to do it again. Finally, we heard footsteps coming toward the door. When the door opened and Mabel saw who it was, she beckoned us inside. Closing the door behind us she looked around her house and said, “I just couldn’t bear to decorate this time, she always loved Christmas and I just couldn’t do it”. I said, “Mabel, Ken and I want you to have this from our kitchen. Our Christmas this year was to do something for people, and we wanted to bring these home baked goods to you, to share the love from our kitchen.” I sat the tray on her kitchen counter and turned back to face Mabel. She threw her arms around me and started to cry. Tears streamed down her face and with her head on my shoulder she said, “This was always a special time of year for Jeannie, and now she is gone. She always loved Christmas, loved to bake things with me, how did you know, how did you know.”
The truth is, I really didn’t know. I just felt.
We stood there together for a bit, holding each other, Ken coming over to hold also, the three of us tightly holding like a three stranded cord, Ken and I sharing in Mabel’s grief. I like to think that the sharing of ourselves grieving with her was our real gift to her, not the tray of baked goods. I like to think she drew strength at that time, from Ken and I holding her.
It was getting late and finally we said tearful goodbyes. Ken and I started back down the highway home. He said, “Mom, I am glad that we did this today.” We had a short discussion on how God gave his Son to us, at Christmas we celebrate His birth and the love of God for us, through God’s Son. We can be living testimony to this fact, when we show through action to others, God’s love in us.
That night, we sat on the couch in front of the woodstove, stoked full of dry oak and cranked up high to keep us warm. With our home baked cookies and a cup of hot cocoa, we were silent. No conversation was needed, we just enjoyed the comfort of each other’s presence and sat thinking about the events from that afternoon, feeling blessed in our hearts from a truly different Christmas.
Lisa G. Hill
Lisa went on to comment that her Christmas celebrations are still never materialistic. She bakes and continues to share her goodies, but resists the temptation to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ by running up debt on her credit cards. Only her youngest still puts something around their little tree.
Every year, my rather large family talks about not buying gifts for everyone, just the little ones. But, somehow, it never happens that way. Inevitably, someone gives us a ‘little something’, leaving us to feel like Scrooge with nothing to give in return. This year, we’re prepared with a ‘little something’ to return. But after reading Lisa’s story, it seems meaningless to get gifts just to give in return.
Afterall, it’s really not what you give, or that you give in return for getting, it’s the heartfelt giving that truly counts.