We dug out our box of Christmas decorations yesterday. We used to have four big boxes of Christmas items to decorate our house. We've reduced that to one big box. We'd pulled the big box out on the Solstice and set out some decorations. Yesterday, we decided we wanted more out.
Each item is a touchstone of place and time. My wife and I married in 1975. I was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Fairborn, Ohio, outside of Dayton. I was nineteen, she was eighteen, and dead broke. We didn't put up anything for Christmas that year. Living just 300 miles from home, I got off work the day before Christmas and drove home for the holiday.
That was to her home, the same town where my Dad lived with his new family. Mom, three hundred miles in another direction, was short-changed.
Christmas in the next year found me stationed at Clark AB in the PI. I had mono from a botched vaccination process and abed from December 2nd to December 31st. Packages came in from my family. I picked them up and opened them - cookies, fudge and brownies, books, and a Hickory Farm gift box, along with photographs.
One set of photographs was most touching. Each held up a letter - MERRY XMAS - and the individual photographs of them holding a letter was tied together with ribbons so they could be strung out as a decoration, which I did, in my barracks room. I still have the photographs.
I was still at Clark the next year but the Air Force surprised me by letting me go home two weeks early, if my unit would released me, and if I could outprocess in time. I could and I did, ending up on a Flying Tigers 747 with two dozen other people. It was a big empty plane. I didn't care, I was going home.
Next stop was LA. People were on standby and there were no seats. The ticket agent was beseiged by people begging for flights. How and why, I don't know, but the group decided that I deserved the flight home. I've always owed much to strangers' kindness.
From there, I reached Charleston, WV, and took a taxi to the Greyhound bus station. That's when I called my wife to tell her where I was and when I would be home. She met me at the bus stop that night. Heavy snow fell. The roads and parking lots were covered. She picked me up just after midnight on December 24th.
My next assignments were joint assignments, although I often worked on Christmas. We began traveling and had enough money to buy decorations. People also gave us decorations as gifts each year. We don't always unpack them. This year we did, finding ornaments from Japan, Germany, the PI, Korea, Hawaii, China, West Virginia, Oregon, Texas, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Some are a little beaten up. Most are cheap and could be bought for just a few dollars. We enjoy the pieces for the priceless memories they bestow.
We unpacked and decorated yesterday. We'd decorated some before that but put on some Christmas music yesterday and unpacked more, trying to find places for all of our favorite Christmas decorations and their memories.
It wasn't possible. We put many items back in their packages and protective wrapping and returned them to the box, but we kept the memories out.
We have a chalkboard hanging by the kitchen. It's an old metal piece with a chipped white metal frame, so shabby and hideous that it endows the space with tremendous character. We use magnets to attached notes and reminders, and use the chalkboard aspect to make shopping lists. On of our favorite little pieces, something handmade, was bought at an Okinawa crafts fair in 1981 for one dollar. It's just a small embroided piece, red with a white candle with a little mistletoe around it.
At the top is stitched, "Happy Holidays" in yellow thread. We hung it on our shabby chalk board, remembering when we bought it and first hung it on our small apartment door off base.
It's funny, the things that you remember at the holidays.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com