Friday, December 26, 2008

Burning the Candles at Christmas

I had intended to blog tonight about our family tradition of burning candles on Christmas Eve, and reading Lil Sis' blog served only to strengthen my resolve.

If I remember correctly the tradition began when I was quite young, so Lil Sis wasn't even a gleam in the old man's eye. Mom and Daddy had their own tradition of going out on Christmas Eve to visit friends, leaving the children at home. It sounds harsh and neglectful, but those were different times. We lived in the country where there was evidently no crime, never mind the fact that we lived next to Daddy's parents, so we could not have gotten into any trouble if we had wanted to. And don't get the wrong picture about our parents going out . . . it was very informal, no mink stoles and tuxes like you see in the movies. We were simple (poor) people. I think it might have just been an excuse for Daddy to get tipsy.

It is still incredible to me that we were able to pull off the candle burning thing. I have no idea where we got the money, how we got to the store to buy the candles, or how we had the nerve to actually burn the damn things. I can't remember ever in my life getting by with anything, so it is all unbelievable to me even now. The candles were usually in the shapes of animals or Christmas icons, and here again I am relying on my memory. It seems I had one in the shape of a grey cat one year. Nurse, Bo and I would wait until our parents left, then gather around some sort of low table and light our candles. Nurse (being the oldest) would read the Christmas story from the Bible, we would sing "Silent Night", blow out the candles, kiss each other good night and go to bed to wait for Santa Claus. This is my memory. Nurse might have a different one.

I'm not sure why we chose "Silent Night". Possibly because it was a song we could all sing at that stage in our lives. Like Lil Sis, sometimes I have a hard time getting through the whole song. On Christmas Eve this year I bought candles in the shapes of snowmen, Santa Claus and penguins dressed in their holiday best. I bought six: one for myself, one each for my son and his wife, one each for my granddaughter and grandson, and one for Bo. After we finished the ceremony, we all blew out our candles. My grandson thought it best that I blow out Bo's candle since he did not know him! My eyes were teary the whole time.

When we were still going to the cemetery to burn candles at Bo's grave, I remember one bitterly cold windy night when we had to re-light the candles many times. As we drove away, we looked back to see that all the candles had been blown out by the wind--all except three. It seemed to signify the original three of us burning candles alone on Christmas Eve all those years ago.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Thought There Would Be Time

Twenty-five years ago I met two of the most wonderful people in the world. Terry and Darlene were an inspiration to me. I never saw either of them angry--at each other or anyone else in the world. We met through our children who were playing sports. Terry was one of the coaches of the T-ball team where my son landed completely by accident, as I did not know anyone associated with his school or with the booster club. I didn't know to request to have my son placed on this team of star players coached by the world's most wonderful coach. Terry's wife Darlene was the scorekeeper for the team and also the unofficial team mom, just because everyone loved her so much. There was always a steady stream of kids in and out of their house, and my son became one of them. I remember the first time he spent the night there. When I went to collect him the next day I sheepishly apologized to Darlene that I had forgotten to send a toothbrush with him. She smiled and replied, "I don't think he missed it."

Darlene and I became the best of friends and at some point began coaching the youth soccer team on which our sons played. We were very successful, and I like to think at least some of it was our coaching style. But our boys were completely loaded with talent and were serious about winning while having fun. I remember those years as some of the best of my life.

But time moved on. The boys grew up. I divorced my (second) husband and did not feel comfortable in the circle of our friends who were married couples (totally unfounded). So we grew apart and no longer kept in touch. Over the years I have thought of Terry and Darlene many times and wanted to visit with them. I just thought there would be plenty of time.

I saw Darlene last night at family visitation at the funeral home where Terry will be laid to rest. I have not asked anyone how he died. (I had heard that he had been ill and using an oxygen tank and assumed he had emphysema or cancer from many years of smoking.) It took Darlene a minute to realize I was there, not because she didn't recognize me but because it has been so long since we have seen each other. It was like seeing something familiar in an unfamiliar place. She hugged me and we both cried. I told her I had thought Terry was a great man, that I had always been jealous of their relationship and wished that I had been so blessed. They were married for 37 years and were still in love, still doing everything together. I know she is going to be lonely in spite of her two loving (adoring) sons and their wives. Hopefully I can be of some comfort to her when she needs me.

Hopefully I will learn one day not to take precious time for granted.