At any age the sight of twinkling lights can bring us back to our childhood, to simpler times gone by and days when we had no responsibilities or regrets. Thinking back to those years should give us a happy glow, yet we sigh a bit reminiscing about the innocence, the times before the world and some of its harsh realities got to us.
Take my mother, Eileen, for instance. She was a lovely little girl, born into a family who had lived through the great depression. A sweet child who had no knowledge of some of the rough roads ahead. Families were poor in the 1930's and 1940's and Christmas gifts were some of the last things parents would worry about. Yet one year, an elderly man who lived near young Eileen took it upon himself to bestow one of the best Christmas gifts she'd ever receive.
Mom often talked about getting fruits and nuts in a Christmas stocking, but this particular Christmas, the elderly gentleman brought a package wrapped in tissue paper. "For the little girl," he'd said, coat buttoned against the cold, frosty breath blowing before him as he handed it to Mom's mother, Louise. Nobody knew why he'd chosen to bring this one special gift to a little girl he barely knew, but when Mom opened the package, a most beautiful dolly peeped out at her. Brown curly hair, blue snowsuit with fur trim, my mother beheld something she'd only dreamed about.
The cherished doll was priceless to her, a lovey to hold on nights when an drunken father spouted abusive words. The doll was her strength and belief that kindness existed, and perhaps there was goodness around the corner.
Mom would tell years later that her most prized gift vanished when she and her family moved to a new house. She'd walk past the old apartment she'd lived in, trying to peek through a window to see if the doll was still there. She never saw it again.
Years would bring sadness to Mom as she lost a beloved sister and mother at early ages. Two miscarriages would follow and she somehow held on. Yet she would survive a cardiac arrest and live to tell an amazing story of the afterlife. With a good man at her side, and two children of her own, life settled into a routine as it usually does.
Now later in life, as older age takes hold, Mom relives precious memories and the stories which meant so much to her. She's spoken recently more and more of the beautiful doll she'd once received, and the kindness of a stranger one Christmas night.
I've talked about our Christmases before and the generosity of my brother. How each year he picks one of us and tries to replicate a gift from our past, searching until he finds it on Ebay perhaps or some other venue. This year he researched dolls with fur snowsuits from Mom's childhood era.
Yesterday, as Mom began opening her last gift, her face crinkled into a frown. She peeled layers of tissue paper from the box and then began to cry. For there, before her was a doll, much like the one of her youth. Years melted away and the little girl, untouched by sadness and grief once again shone like the sun.