It’s that time of year. Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas follows close behind. I have warm, wonderful memories of the holidays from my early childhood. Memories scented with the smell of roast turkey, nutmeg, gingerbread and pine. Good friends gathered around our tables, laughter, camaraderie, pie and Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant. The sounds of Christmas carols and the silence of an early country morning after a new snowfall. Baking and decorating and shopping and wrapping. Cold toes and nose as we trekked into the forest to chose and cut down the perfect tree. And the cozy night before Christmas as we snuggled together in front of the fire, stockings hanging from the mantel, listening as our parents read aloud the story of the Christ Child’s birth.
I’ve tried to create similarly ideal holiday memories for my children over the past decade. Regretably, this year will be a departure, although hopefully not a precedent. We are, of course, so lucky in so many ways. We are not living in a tent, or sleeping in our car or on the street as are so many homeless families. We are together not split apart or separated. We have heat and food and a roof over our heads. I see what could be; the children think about what was and what their classmates have and it’s harder for them.
Although grateful for what we have, the coming holidays depress me. We have so many more constraints now. Picture your own holiday plans- decorating, baking, entertaining, and now imagine carrying them out in a space about 9×20 feet. The children worry about Christmas. They point out to me that there is no chimney, no mantel, no place to hang stockings. No room for a tree. No baking cookes (our oven doesn’t work). And although they don’t say it, they know there’s no money for Christmas either. Frankly it’s not like we have much room for ‘stuff’ – my Christmas list would have 2 things on it- a job and a bigger trailer. In some ways the kids’ more extravagant lists are more realistic! And since they are children, they maintain some hope- they still believe in Santa and so confer with each other as to possible locations for stockings to be hung- on the shower rod? Outside the trailer? Perhaps we could rig a clothesline and hang the stocking there? I agree to all suggestions no matter how outlandish, willing a Christmas miracle to occur.