Wednesday, December 29


This Christmas holiday was darn-near perfect. Everyone seemed (and professed) to be as happy as could be with their presents. We had SNOW (in Dallas!!!) two days before Christmas, and the weather continued to be nippy and holiday-right clear through the holidays.

We spent a neat, though truncated, evening at Six Flags' Holiday In The Park and watched the grandbabies delight in the carousel and the semi-truck rides in Looney Tunes Land, all brightly lit with Christmas colors and with hot chocolate and roasted chestnut vendors every few yards.

We delighted in the Christmas light displays in our neighborhood and all around the lake where we live. We drove a lot, just to take in the pleasure.

Each night, after the little ones were asleep we played the games "Cranium" and "Moods" and hooted and hollered and fell into bed smiling.

On Christmas Eve, after last-minute shopping and package-wrapping, we ate take-out Chinese and attended candlelight church services. We came home and watched "Surviving Christmas" on DVD and then talked about how lucky we were to have such a big and loving family. We played one more game and then started the "everyone to your own room, sneak out to stuff stockings, wrap gifts all night and maybe get three hours of sleep" tradition.

There's so much to remember, the joy of cooking Christmas dinner in my own home with my 83-year-old mother helping while my 80-year-old mother-in-law tries to pick up all the Christmas wrappings and debris, the thrill of listening to my young-adult children laughing as they earnestly try to instruct my adorable 17-month-old grandson in how to play with new toys he obviously needs no instruction for.

I did have one quite long and earnest conversation with my beloved Southern-Baptist Mom, in which she asked me what I thought about gays, then gay marriage, the war in Iraq, abortion, you name it. The context of the conversation was, she was concerned that in recent years I have no longer been the "pillar of the church" I was as a child, an adolescent, and a young wife and mother. She wanted reassurance that I was still a believing and practicing Christian. I believe I gave her that reassurance. The answers weren't what she expected, although we've discussed these matters many times, and she knows what I believe; it just gives her comfort to know that my political stances are based upon my love of Jesus, on Biblical principles that I can back up with God's Word.

When I was very young I resented my mother, the very epitome of the aging Southern lady, for trying to curtail many of my impulses or instincts. I liked to climb trees, I found boys' activities more interesting than girls', I wanted to be the first woman to break into the Major League.

But I also loved reading, and my mother, who had read a poem she had written as her Salutatorian address at her high school graduation ceremony, appreciated and respected my reading time.

We have always had a special bond, my mother and I. I was the child that nearly killed her (my father had to make a choice between us and chose Mama, which I have always agreed with but which decision tormented my father and caused him to be closer to me than my sisters). I was the rebel of four daughters. I usually expected Daddy to support me (as a tomboy, I was kind of his boy) but it was always Mama who really understood me.

Daddy is gone now, for nearly 10 years. It's hard to believe, when I can still summon up his face and voice whenever I want. I can hear him tell me as I go off to college, "If you get caught in a demonstration or something, don't let the photographers get you, just cover your face for your mother's sake."

Okay, back to my mother. When I was a "beauty queen" my mother accompanied me to every event. Before that, she sacrificed to give me piano, voice and dancing lessons. Every time a teacher would remark on some talent or potential ability of mine, my mother would pounce on it and provide me every opportunity to explore and develop it. But she NEVER even suggested what I should do with all this training. SHE never entered me into a contest. She just gave me every experience she could provide and left the rest up to me.

But she's often asked me over the years, "Do you get to use all your talents?" It's as if she thinks I'm Isadora Duncan and the world, and more importantly, I, will experience a great loss if the most fantastically talented woman ever bred doesn't enlighten them.

So I took her to my office and let her see all the awards on my walls, desk, credenza, cabinets, etc. I explained how they were for a variety of brochures, TV advertising spots, film/videos, web sites, public relations campaigns, internal employee movie spoofs, etc. She was thrilled, and when she said, "Doesn't it make you feel important to work for this great company and be so acclaimed?" I was so embarrassed and humbled, I couldn't tell her that some companies are really award-hungry and enter everything in every competition, so of course I'd won a few. It really doesn't mean much. At the same time I was so happy that SHE was experiencing an affirmative moment, I couldn't spoil it by telling her that every day I worry that I won't have a job and will be left with mortgage payments and other bills I can't pay.

Well then I escaped as fast as possible from a conversation I didn't want to continue to pick up our youngest daughter and her two-and-a-half-year-old son from Union Station, and we had a second Christmas.

The whole holiday reminded me how blessed we are to have people concerned about us, people who love us and can be counted upon to support us through trying times. I'll never forget the looks on our children's faces when they opened a gift they especially wanted. Better, I'll never forget the looks on their faces when they watched a sibling or a parent open their own gift, hoping they'd given pleasure. I'll never forget how the entire crowd forgot their own unopened gifts in a rush to watch our two toddler grandsons open their own, and how they took their greatest delight in the joy of those little boys.

After gift-opening and a huge Christmas dinner, our family settled back for what The Sage had been advertising for days as "his entertainment." This turned out to be a collection of pictures he had selected from our family history. As he revealed each photo, we were challenged to determine the year and to tell the story behind the picture.

It was an enchanted Christmas.


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