I used to think that for it to be Christmas, it had to resemble a Norman Rockwell painting or Hallmark Holiday Commercial. And in a way, maybe I still do. I honestly miss those big, lavish Christmases when my whole family - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and all - would gather round. Sure, not everyone got along all the time, but we were still family and it was Christmas, so we were together.
The past few years have not resembled anything like what I remember growing up. I've spent Christmas entirely alone or I've spent Christmas with Dave. He's not much into Christmas, so we pretty much go to the movies and I make stew. And sometimes I made it to church on Christmas Eve. And truthfully, I've grown accustomed to our almost non-existent celebrations. He's family and we're together.
This year, we couldn't get together and I had planned to spend the day with a friend, which I was looking forward to. But then a couple of weeks ago, Mom called me from the nursing home with Nana and Nana said to me "I just wish I could see you. I miss you so much." I had an airline ticket within 24 hours for Christmas in Florida with Mom and Nana. I even made plans to see an old college friend while I'm in town.
My trip has not been without its ups and downs. The airline lost my luggage, which might not have been so bad had I not slept a wink the night before and hadn't eaten all day. I was overwhelmed about seeing Nana and was at my wits end. As silly as it sounds, the reason I cared about my luggage had nothing to do with my clothes or any other material items in it, but with the fact that the last couple of slices of Nana's Fruitcake were in it and I brought it to share with Nana on Christmas. It seemed like everything went wrong on Christmas Eve.
But then today was wonderful. Santa delivered my luggage in the middle of the night. I woke up in Nana's house that she built with most of her life savings. The weather was beautiful (how could it not be, it's FLORIDA!!!!!). And in keeping with our new Christmas tradition, Mom and I saw Charlie Wilson's War, which I highly recommend, had lunch at Waffle House, and then had dinner with Nana. After that, we saw the most amazing display of Christmas lights all throughout one Palm Harbor neighborhood.
Today was a good day for Nana. She knew me and knew it was Christmas. She even had moments of humor. I read her The Christmas Story from Luke 2:1-14 and Santa Mouse, both of which she enjoyed. Then Mom mashed up a couple bites of fruitcake, but didn't tell Nana, and then asked her if she could tell what Mom was feeding her. Immediately, she said "It's my fruitcake" as her face lit up.
Giving Nana that moment of joy was the best Christmas gift I could ever receive and reminded me about the true meaning of Christmas. She probably won't be here next year, but I'll always have the memories of how she loved her fruitcake right up until the end and be grateful that I chose to spend Christmas with family this year. And that's better than any Norman Rockwell painting or Hallmark adaptation.