December 9, 2017

Advent 2017

"The Worst Christmas Ever" 


I don't always "do" change well, and that surprises people. Right now, as I'm helping consolidate Armstrong into the new Georgia Southern University, people seem surprised that I'm not in a panic or railing against the powers that be. But I figure this is something that is going to happen whether I get upset or not, so I might as well not. Getting myself into a state isn't going to help anything; in fact, it'll just make the situation worse. Learning how to adjust to situations as they arise without getting into a state was a concept that took me a long time to grasp, and it may have begun with The Worst Christmas Ever. 

TWCE began when my mother announced we would be celebrating Christmas morning in the newly created playroom down in the basement instead of in the living room. I was appalled. We always had Christmas in the living room. I'd gotten upset a few years before when we shifted the Christmas tree from one side of the room to the other. What could my mother be thinking? 

The next indication this was going to be TWCE was the weekend we drove out to my grandparents' farm to pick a tree. We cut down a glorious cedar, tied it to the top of the Vista Cruiser, and headed home only to discover it was way too tall to fit in the basement with the low ceiling. (It would have looked great in the living room.) Undaunted, Daddy cut off both the top and bottom to save the full middle section and set it up. Our magnificent tree suddenly looked like an enormous bush. 

Christmas morning came, and I sullenly joined the family to open packages. Once again, it was clear it was going to be TWCE because the temperatures outside were unseasonably warm. I knew that because after we opened gifts I decided to go for a long walk to sulk. I had to. I was a teenager and that's what teenagers do. I suppose maybe I thought I was "showing" my parents, but in reality, they probably appreciated having me out of the house since I was so determined to make myself (and everyone else I could take with me) miserable. 

What's ironic is that while I have wonderful memories of various Christmas mornings growing up, they are all part of a mélange. I'm not sure I could identify one from the other. But I remember TWCE quite clearly. That was the year we inaugurated the wonderful new playroom we were all so proud of creating. That was the year our friends, the Smiths, gave us an angel mobile that we all enjoyed so much, we hung it in the playroom every Christmas afterwards. That was the year my brother Jim surprised me by giving me a shoebox full of Agatha Christie mysteries - one of my obsessions at the time. That was the year of the wonderfully ridiculous tree that still makes me laugh whenever I think about it. That was the Christmas I began to realize that when things don't always go the way you think they should, maybe it would be better to relax and enjoy what comes, because if you open yourself up to change, you may change for the better. 

 -- Christopher Hendricks

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