Re-Inventing Christmas

This year, December ushered in a dim and bewildering Christmas season for me. My family members all had important new personal plans that barred me from celebrating Christmas day with any of them. No family at Christmas. They’d been there through life with me so often, so supportive.  But this Christmas I wavered, forsaken. For the first time in my 70 years, I had not even been invited. Of course, I sincerely understand and accept that my west coast sister and her husband have every right to take a well-earned trip and my gulf coast brother and his wife needed to be present at the birth of their first grandchild. Of course. They have their needs too. It’s not all about me. Absolutely.

But, being a never-married single woman, having no family within 2000 miles, I was suddenly orphaned in the frigid, snowy Midwest. I felt trashed. The  message rang out like a perverse Christmas carol: “You’re on your own again…fa la la.  You’re independent…la la la. You’ll figure it out…ho ho ho.”

As I sat in church waiting for the early December Advent service to begin, I realized that this had become a Confusing Christmas. There was a big gaping chasm in my life that used to be experienced as Christmas with Family. Disoriented, I had been left wondering how to re-invent my own Christmas celebration at home.  I especially did not want to be left out–isolated and feeling forlorn on Christmas day. That would have been awful.

So, with the coaching of good friends, I decided to re-invent the Christmas celebration I had always known. Looking back, we came up with a three-step process that I want to share with you in case you ever need to re-do your Christmas celebration. Here it is:

  1. Be proactive. Tell everyone you know and like about your new Christmas quandary.

  2. Immediately make plans to actively celebrate in old and new ways that include spreading the Christmas spirit by giving to others.

  3. Wait and watch for a few Christmas miracles to happen.

Here’s how a new Christmas unfolded for me…

Step 1:

I began letting all my friends know that I would be in town for Christmas and that I’d love to get together. Many of them shared with me the joys and benefits of being surrounded by their large families of choice–close friends who are there to function as family when needed. They are the dear friends we choose to be members of our inner circle. My close friends and I all agree that “it takes a village” to support and love us in this life; and my buddies reached out. They turned themselves into my first ever, living “Christmas village!”

Step 2

Christmas plans emerged. I wrote and sent more Christmas cards than I ever had in the past. We made flower arrangements for 22 friends and, donned with Santa hats, delivered them all over town. We attended Christmas concerts, a dinner, 2 luncheons. We also baked dozens of Christmas cookies and secretly left 4 dozen of them out for the young construction workers who, from dawn to dusk, were re-roofing our snow-laden high-peaked building in freezing December temperatures. They found the baked delights on the open tailgate of their pickup truck with a Christmas card thanking them for their hard work.

My friends and I shared lots of stop-by visits at my place to exchange gifts, converse over dinner and catch up. What a joy! While visiting, several of my “Christmas companions” confided that by necessity, they, too, were in the process of re-inventing their personal holiday celebration.

Sarah came over one day with gifts. We ordered pizza and watched Christmas in Connecticut. During the afternoon she confided that she too is struggling with how to re-invent her Christmas traditions. Her kids were gone for the first time this year. She is officially an empty-nester. As she begins to redesign her future Christmases, she has decided to minister to people around her who are the most downtrodden and marginalized in our society–the homeless, mentally lost, and ill. She has a special heart for people with serious disabilities.

Another super-close friend, Lily, came overnight for a gift exchange, dinner, and a movie. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life. She has confided that she and her husband had suffered and struggled with the thought of having no big bustling family celebration at their home on Christmas day, with lots of food, chatter, and gift-giving. Their kids announced that they would be over to celebrate on December 23rd, not the 25th. They both felt discounted by thoughtless adult children who made plans without their input. Now, how could Christmas day be anything but bleak? But wait! On Christmas morning she wrote, “Merry CHRISTmas! What a beautiful morning with the new snowfall. Relaxing, quiet day. So nice to be done with everything and just enjoy the day. Wow! Another new experience! Another new experience for both of us. And isn’t life just full of them? Blessings to fill up the holes/spaces where something else has left our lives, and literally made room for new and wonderful experiences to wander in. Another grace-filled gift… Now how is that for a fun and comforting way to look at those future changes–challenges that we know will come?”

Step 3

During the course of planning for a new Christmas celebration away from family, several friends apologized that they would have me over on Christmas day, but they couldn’t. There would be no way to get me into their homes since I use a wheelchair full time and they have many steps. I knew ahead of time that that would be true with so many. Limited options. Barriers. Barriers to friendship. Barriers to fellowship. Barriers to sharing Christmas together. I would be left out. No room at their Inns, I guess.

But then! A completely unexpected Christmas miracle happened! A fellow, who is my handyman, stopped by one early morning to bring us some baking supplies. As he sipped a cup of Christmas coffee we had gratefully offered him, he cheerfully invited me and a friend over to share Christmas Day dinner with him and his significant other. Totally unexpected since we had never done anything so social before, I was thrilled! No dark, cold, lonely Christmas Day without family? Wow! What a Christmas surprise!

His face suddenly changed from smiley to somber as he began mulling over some new thought. Hesitating, he confessed that he wasn’t sure I could get into his house because he only had stairs at his front door.

Oh no! Shut out again in spite of good intentions. Heavy sigh. What a burden.

He left that morning wondering. Should he have extended the invitation at all?

A few long days passed. Then he sent me a text. When I opened it, I realized that I had just received the best Christmas card anyone could have possibly sent…

 

 

 

He had built a ramp!

I was still welcome and wanted! 

That was all I ever needed to know.

And oh, we had a wonderful Christmas day together…turkey with all the trimmings, a 9-foot Douglas Fir tree sparkling with colorful ornaments, Christmas carols softly wafting through the rooms, candles glowing, Christmas stories read aloud to each other, gifts exchanged, a rollicking game of Christmas trivia. Seen through huge picture windows, a lacy panorama of fresh white snow on woodland branches provided the perfect backdrop for such a gathering of peaceful hearts brimming with good cheer.

What a wonderful Christmas Re-Invented!

And, as I look back, out of  this Christmas re-invented came a new invention. It’s that process for navigating unexpected change and loss in life which offers help and a hope for renewed happiness.  All I need to do is remember it.

“God bless us, everyone!”

 

Thanks for reading

and Happy New Year to You and Yours,

Sunny

 

23 thoughts on “Re-Inventing Christmas

  1. Dianne Dych-Sachs says:

    Sunny,
    Enjoyed this marvelous Christmas reinvented story.
    Glad that you had a wonderful Christmas with special friends,
    God Bless,
    Dianne

  2. David Russell says:

    Glad your Christmas worked out. Somehow God sends his angels (friends, neighbors and others) to share their joy and life so that we can share our joy and life. You always were able to share that even in high school. It has been my joy to have shared part of that joy.

  3. Susan says:

    I am always there for you! Even across the miles that separate us. Just give me a call. Anytime is fine. I agree with Dave’s comment above, “there will always be friends there for you as you are there for them.” Happy New Year and much love always!❤️🙂🙃

  4. Thank you for sharing the honesty of life. You inspire.

  5. Marcy Brent says:

    Sunny, I so enjoyed your blog. It was my first time reading it. I guess if there is one thing that post polio syndrome persons must be, it is flexible. Else we will become angry, bitter, lonely people. I understand your quandary of barriers that become impossible to navigate as nerves to muscles die and as a result muscles become weaker. For the first time in my life I am faced with the inability to make my body do what I want it to do. I’m sure that determination to do what I want to do has worked against my long term ability to continue to do some things I want to do. But life long habits are hard to change. I think the other characteristic that most post polio survivors have is that internal drive to accomplish the seemingly impossible. I applaud your turning what might have been a sad, lonely Christmas into one of joy. God Bless,

  6. Lorraine Fradleadle says:

    Thank you for your story. Yes, we need to be proactive, that is sure. What a lovely surprise to see the ramp.
    Happy New Year Sunny.

    1. Sunny says:

      My friend said he was amazed that such a simple piece of wood could mean so much to me.

      It’s often in simplicity that the real meaning of Christmas resides, I say!

    2. Sunny says:

      It was great!

  7. Joan Miller says:

    Thanks, Sunny!!
    I sometimes find myself looking at myself, surprised, wondering what to do to fix the loneliness. I am grateful for your help and the permission to ask for help with my delemma.
    I wish you a wonderful New Year,
    My love to you

    1. Sunny says:

      Often in asking for help, we can help others. I really believe that.

  8. Sharon P says:

    Sunny, I really appreciated your story. I have always been lucky enough to be with some family members during the holidays and can only imagine the loneliness you must feel at times. Many people would have remained alone, feeling sorry for themselves. You had the courage to reach out to others and get the support you needed. Please keep writing about your experiences. You’re an inspiration to many of us.

    1. Sunny says:

      Thank you! I will!

  9. Marvelous! A while back I wanted to see a theatre performance in Montreal. When we arrived at the theatre we discovered about 50 steps. I walk but can’t really do steps so we were about to leave. my wife ran upstairs to see if there was a secret elevator, and returned with three very strong young men who picked me up and ran up the stairs! After the performance I walked DOWN with minimal assistance…… Anyway, A very Happy New Year!

    1. Sunny says:

      Wow! That was an uplifting experience in more ways than one!

  10. Judy Anderson says:

    Wish we were geographically closer! We were missing a grandson from our Christmas eve dinner table. And so it begins! I wish for you an incredible 2018!
    “Family” doesn’t have to be blood. See you in the fall.😙😙

    1. Sunny says:

      Big hug, girlfriend!

  11. Lois says:

    Thanks for sharing this heart-felt struggle about Christmas. It is amazing how many times we have to reinvent our lives and how difficult it can be… I think this is going to be a year of reinvention for me.

    1. Sunny says:

      It CAN be done!

  12. Gretchen Booth says:

    Sunny! I love this post! It would be beneficial to so many people. Happy New Year!!

    1. Sunny says:

      Thanks Gretchen! Feel free to keep passing it along…

  13. Nancy Meeks says:

    You described my Christmas also with my husband in the hospital and my children doing their thing. I too changed my normal and made it into a good celebration. Glad you had a great holiday.

    1. Sunny says:

      Would love to hear your story sometime!

  14. Dave Russell says:

    Glad your Christmas turned out to be a good Christmas. May you have a Happy New Year 🎈🎆. And know that there will always be friends there for you as you are there for them.

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