Saturday, December 17, 2011

Childhood Christmas

 It was about 6:00 a.m. on Christmas morning and my father, sleepy in his pajamas, was most unhappy.

"GO! OUTSIDE!" he exclaimed, and retreated to his bedroom.

We were a blended family before such a term existed.  My widowed father and divorced stepmother had joined forces the preceding winter, and combined us into a household that included  10-year-old me and 10-year old stepbrother, almost 8-year-old-brother, and 5-year-old-stepbrother.  

We were not destined to become a well-orchestrated unit.  As Tolstoy tells us, "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," and in that regard, I suppose, we are all alike.  The details don't seem to matter anymore, but there were difficult and hateful moments, even on our first attempt at a Christmas Day in 1963. 

But at 6:00 a.m.?  We were a group of kids, a tad bedraggled and unwieldy in our losses of parents and siblings to death and divorce, but kids, nevertheless: exuberant, energetic, and wide-awake to the four glistening snow saucers and four shiny sleds under the tree.

Boots and hats and mittens went flying and so did we, down the hillside on which our house was perched, over and over again in the dark of Christmas morning.  Mr. Shivers, our basset hound, bounded up and down the hill, delighted by the snow and the shrieks of laughter,  and for a few minutes at the crisp and cold break of day, we were

Just Kids. 


  1. Hmmm... You would have seen "The Brady Bunch" from a whole different perspective (if you ever watched it.)

  2. The well-orchestrated family unit, both immediate and extended, is often better described as one of cacophony rather than accord. I'm sorry.

    I do, however, have to say that Mr Shivers rocks! My niece and her husband recently adopted Finnegan, a year-old basset. He is the sweetest beast, next to Keenan, of course. The dogs get along beautifully. A lesson here?

  3. I have found it an amazing spiritual gift to be able to truly see, and love, the odd, happy times in an otherwise frightening and chaotic childhood.

    So much of my life was spent distancing and resecting, rejecting and struggling. Now, I too have scenes that bubble up. And if I'm quite still, they can simply be. Delightful.

    And that is part of my story too.

    Thanks for sharing one of yours.

  4. Cindy, I'm glad you understood it that way. I am making a particular effort these days to see God in all things -- which, among other things, means finding those almost forgotten moments of glee in otherwise difficult times.

  5. in between all my doctor appointments, I had many a "just kid" moment.

  6. My mom divorced my dad when I was five, and then remarried when I was 7....hard times. But I have a similar memory of our first Christmas as a new family, mine includes a pink schwinn two wheel bike!

    Finding God in memories that include much brokeness...