As Christmas nears each year, I meander through stores with glazed eyes. I see other frantic shoppers wearing gloom and grimace. I wander from aisle to aisle trying to find something (I know not what) for someone (I know not whom).
That's when an epiphany shoots a dart through my brain, and I think, why, we're all as mad as hatters. If Christmas were left up to most men - not all, but most - we'd be better off. There'd be no tree, no decorations, no gifts, no Christmas feast and no stress. But wait. Is that what we really want?
Remembering my mother-in-law, Ora Withrow, I still feel the glow of her love as she did her best for Him and for her family. She worked especially hard at Christmas. Shopping with her daughter, Dolores Stump, she began early. Ora wrapped presents with gorgeous bows she made by using a mail-ordered gadget. She painstakingly trimmed a tree, under which she knelt to create a miniature village. Hanging from the bottom branches was a small Santa in a sleigh pulled through the air by six tiny reindeer - all made of white plastic. Had anyone else hung that beneath a tree, it could have been tacky, but Ora's exquisite tree, enchanting village and soaring Santa all worked together to make magic.
About a week before my mom died, she said, "You know what the best gift in the world is, Dolly?"
"Love. It's love."
She was right, and each Christmas, I'm once again reminded of that as I sit at our daughter's round dinette table.
Nine of us family members who live here on the poor man's version of the Kennedy Compound are playing games. We don't care who wins, for the kinds of games we play lend themselves to hilarity.
In one game, we write what we think is the first sentence in a novel, title announced by a player, or we write the caption for a New Yorker cartoon drawn from a box. The whole idea is to enjoy being together. We do. We've never said that's the idea, but we know.
I sit with my back to the bay window and to my left is a hutch my father-in-law, Howard Withrow, built many years ago. My daughter Risa painted it black and stressed the edges. The houses from Ora's village sit on the shelves, along with her tiny cast-iron "people" purchased at Sears. On the bottom of each piece, Ora had written "1974."
And there it is. Flying through the air under the ceiling of the top shelf is the miniature Santa with his six tiny reindeer. Like her Grandmother Ora and her Aunt Dolores, Risa has the touch. Her decor is gorgeous. I bask in the glow of the twinkling lights and in the glow of family love. Next year, I'll repeat the glazed eyes performance in stores, but I'll not remain Scrooge for long. My mom was right. Love is our greatest gift and I am surrounded by family love.
Contact writer Dolly Withrow at ritew...@aol.com.