In this early hour of a new day I have decided to share my memories of a Silent Night…
As a young girl my father’s family gathered every Christmas Eve for a celebration ..one particular year is impressed in my visual memory…a crowd of cousins, uncles, aunts….a dark night…walking down a hill to the Great Grandparents…I do not remember seeing the private audience…The family towered over me…we sang Silent Night as it was who ever we were singing for’s favorite….It seemed this song was an annual tradition a gift to he elders of the family whom I do not remember meeting…. I did not know the song…and wondered why everyone was talking about food…They sang “tender and mild” and I thought it was hot sauce or meat they were describing..I tried to recollect a food that was both tender and mild and determined it must be a steak….Having a fiver year old who takes verbal meanings literally…I wonder if I was five that year….
Now, there is a darker side to this Silent Night…my father realized we did not know the Hymn…I think he was embarrassed or just appalled …this may not have been the same year..because I was either seven or eight the year Dad lined us up in front of the Christmas tree at his house..the house dear friends had lived …the house where Sue lost her battle with Breast Cancer on my birthday…The house my Dad tried to show his love for his girls every Wednesday and every other weekend….it was in front of that Christmas tree after singing over and over and over until we had it memorized that he then told us to look at our feet…if we could not see our toes then we were fat and needed to quit eating as much food…that was the beginning of his diet for my sister just one year younger than me….tears are falling as I type for my sister….I battled with body image issues over the next several decades…but it was my little sister who bore the brunt of conditional love…my sister who lacks nothing in ambition…my sister who memorized Grandma and Grandpa’s number before me…My little sister who found a way to make money mowing lawns and baby sitting and cleaning….my sister who struggled with school…with authority…my sister who lives a challenging live far far removed from my farm fairy tale….and yet it is also my sister who was the first in my family to turn to the cross…the first baptized..the first to begin her relationship with Jesus….
I think back and wonder when did I first realize Christmas was not about Santa…who told me Christmas was a birthday celebration for a baby? When did I realize Jesus was the child born in the manger? My teenage self attended Midnight mass several times with friends..in a state I am ashamed of to this day…I do not remember them telling me about Jesus, or a baby, or a cross…..and now as a woman of faith..I can hardly imagine what my life was like before Jesus….I remember the pain, the despair, the searching, the emptiness, the hopelessness, the meaninglessness…..my hidden secret feelings threatening to derail my life….and yet the whispers of love surrounded me…I was in His house…I was silent on those Midnight mass nights…silent because I knew I did not belong ….and today Silent Night even with the painful memories is one of my favorites….With the Dawn of redeeming Grace…I am reminded at where I once sat a lost child thinking only of food upon the words tender and mild to a woman daily humbled at my need for manna….the gift of Christmas is for all of us…Merry Christmas!
My dad called today to say he received my Christmas Card…it was a special gift to have him call..our relationship is special to me…it is not that of a Father-daughter that I hope for my girls but he is my Daddy and I am thankful to have him and to get to know him as an adult in a way that I never did as a child. In case he ever reads my blog….I wanted him to know that I treasure him as a special gift and he knows that I forgive him for all those ill-fitted words he spoke to us as children…the reality of the pain is still suffered in new ways as memories have a way of intruding your moments…but the truth is forgiveness has healed the deep sting…the pain can no longer dig deeper…it is like a scar that aches at times but I know it is no longer causing new damage.