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Mary Jo Matthews on Christmas Memories

By Mary Jo Matthews
December 25th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

This is her first Christmas without her husband and her oldest son, and it will not be the last one she will spend alone.  Family, friends, other children and grandchildren have tried very hard to make the day special for her, and she loves them for their care and kindness.  As she looks around the room at all the smiling pictures and mementos from many happy times, she knows that there will be only two special gifts that she will receive this year - one, the faith in God which always sustains and two, the beautiful, warm, shining memories of all the Christmases past.

            
ATHENS, GA (Catholic Online) - The little child sits on the floor, surrounded by mounds of foamy paper, discarded bows and crumpled gift tags.  Her eyes are drawn to the brightness of the sparkling tree.  It drops its long green needles which fall and lie in drifts about the waxen stillness of the crib in miniature.  Her little fingers long to touch the figures in the crib and move them about like dolls - especially the baby who is so tiny.  Lots of toys - dolls and teddy bears and other tempting things surround her, but the child ignores all these.  She finds a plastic spool that held line for her father's new fishing rod, and happily rolls it across the floor - it is her favorite plaything.
               
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The tall young girl in a soft new dress, with a dash of her new Christmas perfume behind each ear and Christmas stars in her eyes, waits eagerly for that special ring at the door.  And in the corner, forgotten by all, is the little girl that she once was - transformed now by swinging skirts and the click of slim high heels.  And for an instant she longs to touch with her hand once more the flaxen curls of a favorite doll and the worn surface of a plastic fishing spool.  The little girl within her swallows tears and greets her young man with a smile and maybe the promise of a special future ahead for them.
               
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With her husband's arm around her, the young mother smiles down at the infant she is holding so tenderly.  His arrival made this Christmas special in hundreds of ways she never could have imagined possible.   No shepherds have arrived but friends and relatives have brought good things to eat, baby blue clothes and little playthings.  And doting grandparents did not bring gold, myrrh and frankincense but savings bonds and special accounts to educate this special child. 
               

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Her children surround her and their laughter makes the Christmas morning special as always - but something important is absent from this home.  The Army wife misses her husband who is separated by thousands of miles and is eating turkey dinner in a mess hall half a world away.  She hopes he will be able to call and it will be wonderful to hear his voice, even if their children will be snatching the phone from her hand. Although the minutes are few, each one must hear Dad's voice and tell him something special.   Memories of this Christmas will not be as happy as those in the past, but there will be many more in the future and it is those she looks forward to.

              
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This is her first Christmas without her husband and her oldest son, and it will not be the last one she will spend alone.  Family, friends, other children and grandchildren have tried very hard to make the day special for her, and she loves them for their care and kindness.  As she looks around the room at all the smiling pictures and mementos from many happy times, she knows that there will be only two special gifts that she will receive this year - one, the faith in God which always sustains and two, the beautiful, warm, shining memories of all the Christmases past.

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Mary Jo Matthews is a journalist, writer, and poet living near Athens, GA, who, at 86, now writes from her home in the country.

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