Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate
Christmas was always a wonderful experience growing up in San Diego, California.
The concept of a white Christmas is not entirely lost on those who live in warm climates. But in sunny San Diego, the experience of dashing through the snow is completely foreign. Even though December is the coolest month of the year in San Diego, the average is still in the high 60s. Temperatures of 75 degrees or more are not uncommon during Christmas week. The all time record: 88 degrees! Average rainfall is just one and a half inches for the whole month. Local attractions do their best, bringing out the snow machines and create artificial snow to delight California children.
But, how did Santa Claus ever deliver so many presents when it never snowed in San Diego, California? Most homes did not have fireplaces, though they are much in vogue today in Southern California, though merely as decoration.
At five years old, we spent Christmas staying with my aunt and her family in their splendid San Diego home that year. On Christmas Eve, my dad and I were peering outside a large, picture window, looking of course for Santa Claus, his reindeer, and the promise of all his presents. Suddenly fear gripped me as reality hit a child’s mind.
“Daddy, how can Santa deliver all our presents with his reindeer, if there is no snow!” Never mind that presents arriving had never been a problem on any past Christmas, and most five year olds know it might be wrong to ask such a pointed question.
Dad took his time answering. He gave it so much thought, it occurred to me that maybe my question had some merit after all!
“Honey, out here Santa arrives by helicopter!” It made sense although I felt slightly uneasy with this response. Nevertheless my concerns were eased. There was no reason to be disappointed with Santa Claus the very next morning!
Next year at the far more mature age of six, I decided to investigate what I had learned the previous Christmas and see if I could prove what my Dad had told me for myself. On Christmas Eve, I let my parents think I had gone to bed. Instead, upon hearing them retire for the evening, I got up and snuck out of my bedroom. I hid behind a large, overstuffed chair in the living room. I was awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus via helicopter, still feeling a little envious of all the children in other parts of the world who might be fortunate enough to spy Santa Claus with his reindeer.
The hot chocolate and cookies were waiting on the dining room table. I knew he hadn’t already come yet, and settled down to wait.
It was for naught. My parents caught me spying, and I was promptly sent to bed. The next day on Christmas morning, I was very grateful for Santa Claus and forgot all about his reindeer.
Do our favorite gifts foretell the future or create the future? Either way, working in healthcare was always my destiny. I cherished my play doctor kit replete with bag, plastic stethoscope, candy pills, and a variety of patient-care tools such as bandages and such. What great fun dispensing “medications,” taking pulses, and administering first aid to patient members of my family. My doctor bag was the best. I could hardly wait for the arrival of our Christmas guests to get underway so I could practice on them too.
But no matter how many sets of play kitchen accessories, petite plastic fry pans, small oven and refrigerator, and other cookware, none would have been enough to create a Martha Stewart in the making.
Looking back as an adult, although I still have great fondness for my doctor bag, the greatest gift was being blessed to have large family gatherings, with great grandparents, grandparents, both my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on hand. It was so easy to assume everyone else’s experience was the same. It was not possible to fathom life without them, nor the reality that slowly but surely life would change, which makes these memories of past Christmases even more precious.
Now I know all too well working with older adults that not everyone is lucky enough to be surrounded by loving family whether of blood or choice. The holidays can be a lonely time. It is incumbent upon each of us to do what we can to change this through paying forward the gift of time and fellowship with others that our families have lovingly given to us.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!