Rural Living

Holiday Bluesbuster

Helpful Tips for the Hopeless Humbug


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

íTis the season, yet again. 

Are you merry? Well, sort of. And sort of not.

Iíll bet the holidays are the same for most adults. There is oh, so much to be done. Most of it involves specialized work. And lots of money. This year, donít you think a tank of gasoline would be a great gift to receive? Why donít we just all give each other gas cards, and be done with it? If you want to proffer a more lavish gift, well, how about a full tank of heating oil?

Which would you appreciate more: a) yet another sweater,  b) a seventh bathrobe, or c) a pair of beef tenderloins and a couple gallons of milk?

The real reason Iíve come to dread the holidays, though, is not about money, or choosing the right gifts. It is the empty chairs at the table.

Daddyís seat of honor has been vacant for 18 years now. It doesnít seem that long. Then again, it seems like forever. Momís chair has sat sadly empty for just three years. Since then, I have not had the heart to decorate. That would entail fondling every one of Momís handmade ceramic ornaments ó darling little stockings and reindeer and mice (mice?), painted in bright, gay colors; the jolly Santa she painted for Daddy, when we didnít know it would be his last Christmas. How she managed to find a Santa with a pipe like Daddyís, I donít know; I do know that I canít even open the box without weeping.

Lest you become discouraged and stop reading ó who needs a downer holiday column? ó allow me to reveal the true secret of acquiring the Christmas Spirit. If thoughts of the holidays are making you blue, hereís a solution that worked wonders for me: Stop looking inward and moping around; get out there and start giving.

First, I volunteered to work at the community Thanksgiving feast. I donít know if your hometown has one, but many do. This is a rewarding hoot, let me tell you. Everyone who has almost no one ó and even those with someone ó gathers together around a table groaning with sumptuous homemade goodies, and shares the traditional meal. Everyone is smiling. There is quite a lot of laughter. No one goes hungry. Take-home plates are loaded and boxed. Flowers and cakes are wrapped for delivery to the nursing home or shut-ins.

Then, I heard the nursing home was seeking new things to put in a holiday shop, so residents who could no longer brave the malls and masses might have gifts to give when family came to visit. This was fun! While I was there, I adopted three angels from the tree. I then had people to shop for, and the shopping was a joy! When someoneís three greatest wishes are a warm nightgown, some soft socks, and a book of word puzzles, well, you want to give them that, and lots more!

On a roll now, I volunteered to shop for the Christmas Mother program. Who knew shopping could be so much fun? Who knew the staff and managers of discount mega-stores could be so helpful and patient and accommodating?

Finally drunk with holiday spirit, I got home and raced to the basement to forage around for a few decorations. I had one particular thing in mind: the foot-high lighted ceramic Christmas tree Mom and Daddy made me about 25 years ago. That, I figured, would dress up the place. If guests dropped by, I did not want them to think me a humbug, now that I felt like Scrooge on Christmas morning.

I rummaged through every box, yet could not find it. Finally, I gave up and went to run a few errands. I arrived back home to find that my friend and housekeeper had actually bought me a tree, put it up in the living room, and decorated it. Is that not the most shining example of the true spirit of Christmas?

I feel it was Momís spirit who sent me to the basement shortly after New Yearís on another search for something, because there it was, right where it should have been: the ceramic Christmas tree. I cannot wait to put it up, early, this year. I cannot wait to forage through those boxes for decorations crafted with love. I know Iíll cry, but I bet Iíll be laughing, too.

Happy holidays, everyone. May you have lots more laughter than tears!


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