Stop me if you've heard this before...
If you are around me anytime between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day you will probably hear me before you see me. Like a bird-lover’s cat, I wear a bell on a chain around my neck so I jingle when I walk. The bell really has no significance to me, but it adds a bit of whimsy to the other charm on the chain they share. Plus, every time a bell rings… so says Clarence.
I’ve written many times before of my sister, Barbara, who died in 1995. I’ve never known anyone who loved Christmas more than Barbara. She loved holidays in general, but Christmas was her favorite. She had a decorative Hallmark pin for every holiday; hearts for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, eggs for Easter, etc. But I think she probably had a different Christmas pin for every day in December.
On Thanksgiving Day 1993 she presented my sisters and I with a small, silver Santa charm. She had one for herself too, of course. It was a happy she wanted to share with us early so we would have time to wear it for Christmas that year. That was the year my first son was born, so I was too wrapped up in my own life to pay much attention to anything else. I never imagined that only one year later, Thanksgiving 1994, she would be in a coma. I wore my Santa charm that year when I went to the hospital to see her. I’ve worn it every year since beginning on Thanksgiving Day.
When Barbara died, part of the feeling I had for Christmas died with her. I think it was the feeling of innocence. Never in my lifetime did I think anything so tragic could happen to my family. When it did I lost something about myself.
I wear her Santa to keep her with me, to remember things. I remember that feeling of old when Santa visited me and I heard his footsteps by my bed. I remember that one Christmas morning when she was so excited she vomited. I remember the year she was pregnant with her son and having a hard time of it, and she asked me to come over and help her decorate her Christmas tree. I unwrapped the ornaments she had so carefully put away the year before, as she sat in a chair and directed me where to put what. I obliged because she was my sister and I knew how much it all meant to her. I remember the Christmas Day in the cardiac ICU when she roused from her coma long enough to smile at us as we wished her a Merry Christmas. A true Christmas miracle if ever there was one outside of the virgin birth.
Friends and strangers have commented on my necklace, “Cute Santa” or “What an interesting necklace”. I usually reply with a simple thank-you, and leave it at that. But sometimes, on occasion, I’ll tell about it, and in the telling I can feel her standing next to me, correcting my grammar but proud just the same.