Column: In the race toward Christmas, remembering what matters


SANDBRIDGE — Christmas is back. Time flies every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I start to stress when the autumn decorations are put away at my pharmacy and Christmas decorations inhabit the shelves – and a valentine or two peek at me around the corner.  Sigh. It’s hard to keep up.

Christmas was fun when I was a child. There were holiday school functions and crafts to make. I decorated the tree with my siblings while a Christmas album we picked up at the gas station played on our enormous vinyl and eight-track tape stereo.

In Lakeview Shores, a group of kids caroled together, collecting hot chocolate as we went.  My mother baked cookie upon cookie and different breads, everything made from scratch.

At my Catholic school, kids wore white shirts and green or red skirts or pants for the annual carol night.  Six hundred children sang while parading into church, which had a live nativity scene at the altar. The church was packed with adults holding candles. My brother was the little drummer boy one year.

When my four children were young, I tried to mimic the holiday I enjoyed so much at their age. I was determined they have the whole experience – a house decorated with bright lights and big colored bulbs, a live Christmas tree with the heavy root intact with all the trimmings.  

What, cook for ten people? Bring it on. C’mon guys, let’s make dozens of holiday cookies this Saturday after your little league basketball games are finished. Gifts for coaches?  Of course, and it was my turn to bring snacks for the team. I’ll be right back from the grocery store before the game is over.  

Tomorrow is the nativity play at Sunday school. Son, you have to be a shepherd. No, you didn’t get an angel part. You are one of the shepherds. The shepherds are very important.  Please get your homemade costume on so we can all get in the car. Everyone, please get in the car. Where’s your father?

I believe I said the phrase “get in the car!” more often during the holiday season than “Merry Christmas.”

Teacher’s gifts, school parties with baked goods and work parties. Did I mention that I worked full time?  Husband’s party and my party, gifts for my office staff, my boss, his boss. Shopping in northern Virginia was an exercise in strategic planning, between parking and overcrowded malls. Coupons? Forget it. I moved too slowly with coupons.

I remember one Christmas begging the manager of the Toys R Us to go back into the store room and find me the Princess Leia in the white gown. He said that his store was completely out. I advised him this wasn’t my first Toys R Us rodeo, and that I personally knew he was telling a little white Christmas lie. How would Bing Crosby feel about that, sir?

I got Princess Leia in the white gown. It didn’t make me feel good being somewhat of a bully. I wished him a Merry Christmas, and I sailed on to my next stop.

By the way, young people, there were few cell phones and no internet shopping. Can you believe it?  It was a time of nostalgia and negotiation, singing carols and sour store managers, fa-la-la lists of gifts to go get, mailing 200 Christmas cards. You had to physically do stuff. I was in tears by Christmas Eve.  

However, Christmas Eve Mass reminded me of the real reasons for our celebration. I saw the lovely faces of my children, each wearing a sweater the older sibling wore the year before. I sat down during the service, concentrated on love and beauty, and got some energy for the day still to come.

Christmas Day was always magical. I did a pretty good job creating memories. But on Dec. 26, it was all about hallelujah, holy Toledo and where’s the Tylenol? And my new slippers, leftover eggnog and the remote control.

Lisa Versprille Burkett manages a magazine for seniors and lives in Sandbridge.

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