When I was a little girl, I knew undoubtedly our Christmas tree was the most beautiful in all creation, with the shiny glass ornaments reflecting the soft glow of the colorful lights and the silver tinsel icicles carefully humming in perfect harmony with the season’s melody. Breakable mercury glass mixed with construction paper and pipe cleaner cutouts adorned the branches. It shouted festive, echoing to the rooftop and eaves outlined by the outdoor lights my father had carefully hung across our wonder years garage, proclaiming the merriest of holidays to the neighborhood. Such are the views of a young child mesmerized by the magic of the holidays.

Take away the rose tinted nostalgia glasses and replace them with clear see though readers and reality emerges from the shadows. Our modest suburban home was no better and no worse than any other in that 60’s and 70’s neighborhood. Our $14.99 six foot tree purchased from the lot across from the local mall had that authentic smell, same as any fresh cut tree.  The string of red, blue, green, orange, yellow lights flashed off and on each evening, until the final flash promptly at 10:30 as soon as the news was over and it was lights out. I counted down the number of sleeps until Christmas Eve, same as my children did thirty five years later, listening for distant sleigh bells daring to signal the jolly man’s arrival.

I remember questioning Santa in my mind, trying to rationalize his existence and abilities to bring worldwide joy. I remember a bit of terror thinking this man might be traipsing around inside my house as I slept. I remember wondering if I had been good enough, well behaved enough or would my stocking be filled with black lumps. Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure what coal was, imagining the briquets used to light the grill of our summer barbecue fun.  As much as I doubted, I was more afraid to not believe.

Christmas morning waylaid all of my fears and insecurities. St. Nick visited, even though we had no fireplace and no chimney. My stocking held fruit and nuts and a candy cane. A requested gift sat under the tree. The doubts of wondering what would be were replaced with what was. A plate of cookie crumbs and an empty milk glass sat on the corner end table, with a handwritten thank you note scribbled across the napkin. Amazingly, Santa and my dad had a very similar writing style. This scenario, time and time again was replayed year after year. Stop, fast forward, rewind. My childhood, my children’s childhood, and likely someday their children’s childhood. We tend to find security in being creatures of habit.

The generation directly prior to my 60’s and 70’s remembrances was vastly different. My Christmas joy competed fiercely with my mother’s Christmas pain. It was my father who insured the magic. I never understood her dislike and intense melancholy during the season. How could anyone dislike Christmas? It made no sense to my young mind. The images I found joyous intensified her lack of joy. What I saw as tradition, she saw as commercial greed. What I saw as fun and colorful, she viewed with dread as unnecessary work and nonsense. 

It wasn’t until years after her death that I began to understand a bit of her pain. Her own demons held her, preventing her ability to be jubilant. Happiness was strangled and replaced with sorrow. What should have been the most joyous of times became a train ride back to the future, reliving intense struggles and unwanted poverty in a world she had no control over, but one that strongly controlled her.

While this recount isn’t a direct story of our dear man Presley, it does have a direct connection to a Presley song. The “you” in the title doesn’t necessarily belong to a person, but in a sad longing sort of way it speaks of much more. While on the surface it seems to exemplify a desire for a lost love, I think more so it tells of lost times, memories of easier ways, thoughts of when a past wish was fulfilled by simply being. 

“It Won’t Seem Like Christmas Without You” has always been a favorite of mine, this year more than any other. While I think of the missing present and remember the thoughtful past, I think of the Presley family Christmases. It’s well known that Elvis loved Christmas, adored gift giving and gave generously. I wonder if this song ever struck a chord with him as well? For all his joy in giving, did he ever long for simpler times too? Did he dream of his childhood holidays, looking outside in, thankful he could now provide so much for so many but still mindful, remembering the many challenges?

This holiday season, with the festivities and traditions and get togethers, gift exchanges and fancy meals and wrapped adorned packages neatly tied with big fancy bows, let us remember the holidays are not one size fits all. Some deal with changes and loss, others face well hidden hardships that outsiders eyes cannot see. 

While it may not seem like Christmas without you, without them, without … you add the qualifier – be comforted. To those facing a missing portion, may you find peace despite the absence and solace among the wanting.

Seasons of life are part of the journey and may we support one another as we travel this road together.

~Janet Bostic

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It Won’t Seem Like Christmas Without You

Oh, it won’t seem like Christmas, oh without you

Far too many miles are between

But if I get the one thing I’m wishing for

Then I’ll see you tonight in my dreams

Seems a long time since we’ve been together

It was just about this time of year

Looks like it’s gonna be snowy weather

How I wish that you could be here

But it won’t seem like Christmas, oh, without you

For too many miles are between

But if I get the one thing that I’m wishing for

Then I’ll see you tonight in my dreams

In the distance I hear sleigh bells ringing

The holly is so pretty this year

And the carol that somebody’s singing

Reminds me of our Christmas last year

Oh, but it won’t seem like Christmas, oh, without you

For too many miles are between

Oh but if I get the one thing I’m wishing for

Yes, I’ll see you tonight in my dreams

Songwriter: J.A. Balthrop

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