I’m pretty old but not that old, in the big scheme of things.
I was at a grocery store today and I watched some older folks shopping for Christmas. Before everything shuts down for a few days. I would like to imagine that every seventy-five or eighty year old man or woman is buying supplies for their grandchildren or even their grown children but I’m not naive. Some older people are preparing for Christmas by buying their food for the next few days because they can’t get out that much in the cold or want to navigate the winter ice as infrequently as possible.
Some of them will be alone on Christmas Day. They will have their store-bought tortiere or their favourite hearty soup, which they will enjoy as they watch curling or the Sound of Music.
Most of us think of Christmas Day as being a day for children. It’s where our memory gravitates to and if we’re lucky enough to be around children or grandchildren now, it’s where our focus lies.
But I think someone who has experienced seventy or eighty Christmases deserves a little more attention. Every old person you see in the store once believed in Santa Claus. But maybe it was in 1935 and it was the depression era and something so frivolous as a new sled was unthinkable. New shoes were to cry about. Perhaps an orange in your stocking really was a great treat.
Perhaps they were in Europe or even here in Canada during the war and all they wanted for Christmas was for their father or brother to come home.
My father’s family threw antique furniture into the fire place to keep warm during the winter because they had no other choice. I can’t imagine what their Christmas wishlist may have looked like.
But all of them were once kids who wanted things in the same way we have all wanted things. Something that was a treat, something that was special, something we would never dream of asking for at any other time of the year.
This is what I think about when I see old people in the grocery line at Christmas. Even the rich ones. They all suffered at some point.
I wonder how it might be a little different if we thought of Christmas as an important day, the most important day, not for our children or our grandchildren but for our parents and grandparents. The ones that made it this far. The ones who are the furthest removed from wonder. The ones who have given of themselves, who have sacrificed for each of us for decades or even generations.
I don’t have too many older close family members anymore. But when one of my nieces or nephews is tearing through his or her wrapping paper to get to a new toy truck or a designer craft set this Christmas, I’m going to take a moment to think of my parents, my aunts and uncles and most of all, my grandparents, who waited for the same Santa we did and who were happy for the most modest of gifts. Gifts that they remembered for years.
If Christmas really is the season of giving, perhaps we would be better off focusing on those of us who have given so much. Because after all, in a small way, we’re all still waiting for Santa to bring us something special. Something we’ll always remember.
And if there’s anything more special than a joyful look on a three year-old’s face, it might be a grateful look on his grandmother’s face.
So a belated Merry Christmas to my parents, my uncles, my aunts and my grandparents.
I hope you enjoyed the oranges and I hope you believed in Santa Claus for as long as possible. You deserved the sweetness and you deserved the hope.