I could begin this posting with an explanation of why I have not written in a while. I could easily say that it’s because I have been so busy with all the Christmas activities that we tend to get ourselves involved in at this time of the year. But I have specifically worked at not getting too tangled up in the “Christmas crazies”.
I have learned not to leave gift shopping to the last minute. I actually “Christmas shop” throughout the year. As I visit different places I try to find interesting items for special friends or family members. Sometimes I’ll see something really unusual and I’ll grab it knowing that it will make a wonderful gift for someone, whether it be Christmas or Birthday.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas around the shopping areas. I love Christmas – the lights, the songs, and those special smells that seem to surround this particular season. But I’m not frantically running around looking for that perfect gift for everyone on a long list. I do still have one or two items that I want to get but, in one case, I know exactly what to get and where to get it, and in the other case, I know the right thing will pop up when it’s ready to reveal itself.
I haven’t been to a slew of parties nor do I have a bunch to go to between now and Christmas Day. I’m not stressing out about the Christmas dinner. I know we will do a “traditional” meal, turkey with all the trimmings, although it will be a little bit different because we love to deep fry the turkey. (For those of you who have never tried it, believe me it is delicious and not in the least bit greasy!!)
One Christmas project that does take up a lot of my time and energy is “my Christmas card list”. In my previous posting The Muse Has Been Gone – Again!, I mentioned that I have many people in my address book, family and friends that I have made over twenty five years of being attached to the military life.
I am also a creative person and I try to make many of my own cards. So from the beginning of November my craft room turns into a Santa Workshop with colored card stock, embellishments, ink pads galore, and stamps strewn haphazardly all over the place. (I know where everything is!) Many of the cards are simply signed “With Love and Blessings” and our names – a token sign of friendship and memories shared. But many require a longer note and a few are filled to the brim with news. So I have been writing – quite a lot – just in a different way.
However, I think I need to admit here that I have been avoiding the computer and the writing of postings. I didn’t set out purposely to do this. I am simply acknowledging right now that I think at some deep level that’s what I’ve been doing. I have also been putting a lot of energy into staying positive, and when that kind of energy is being used it’s difficult to have much left for creatively writing.
Why have I been avoiding the computer? Because when I write, my feelings come out (you may have noticed that if you read my postings regularly), and I guess I just wasn’t ready to do that because it might have been a great big “BLEAH” of stuff and I don’t like visiting that on an unsuspecting audience. So in the last few days I have had the opportunity to talk some of the feelings out and to pray about them A LOT! And here’s what I have discovered.
I am tremendously sad deep in my heart because Christmas is a time for celebrating “family style”. I’m talking about extended family. All my childhood Christmas memories are of the family coming together: aunties, uncles, and cousins. People were all over the place, and the kids ran around. Bits of wrapping paper were stuffed under chairs, music played, and there was a never-ending supply of food and drink. It was warm, and comforting and such fun.
Well, the extended family is thousands of miles away. Even my husband’s family is pretty long distance here in the States. At Christmas I always invite people to the house who are alone or who also have far-flung family and we do have good times. But it just isn’t quite the same. Perhaps it would be truer to say that it’s great and the fellowship and socializing is really good, but I still miss my family.
They always say to “leave the best for last”. In this case it is the “most difficult for last”. The biggest sadness that fills my heart right now is the estrangement from my beloved daughter. (And here come the tears; there have been many bucketfuls of late.) Because of the lifestyle she chooses to live I do not even know if we shall see her over Christmas, and this breaks my heart. She lives close by and yet it seems that an ocean divides us.
My Christmas prayer (which is my everyday prayer) is that God will bless and protect her and guide her to right choices. And this is a prayer that I offer for everyone who may need it at this time of the year.
My first visit to Naples, Italy took place in the summer of 1982, with consequent visits at Christmas in the same year and then at Easter of 1983. I eventually travelled to live in Naples on 1 July 1983. However, I had already “visited” Naples through a book that I read in early 1981. The title of the book was Children of the Sun – The Slum Dwellers of Naples, and it was written by Morris West.
I was taking a year-long night school class at the time and was looking for an end-of-year project to present as my final paper. The book not only gave me the subject for my project, but also had such a profound effect on me that it had great influence on my decision to live in Naples when I returned to Italy a few years later. (I highly recommend reading this book if you are going to visit Naples, Italy.)
The following poem was inspired by the book and became an integral part of the paper that I presented at school.
The Urchin From Naples
Don’t push me aside Mr. Tourist
When leaving your five-star hotel,
I may be all dirty and tattered,
But I have my self-pride as well.
Don’t look down your nose when you see me,
With hand reaching out for a dime.
I’m a person with senses and feelings
In spite of my face full of grime.
I come from a family of seven,
And worked from the ripe age of five.
School didn’t exist for an earner
Who could help keep the family alive.
My mother was busy with babies,
My father was touting for bread,
M sisters were selling their bodies
To make sure we all had a bed.
And so from this ‘home’ I escaped,
To fend for myself all alone,
In the back streets of Naples I wander,
At least what I earn is my own.
I see that you ask why I did this,
Chose my roof as the sky up above?
It’s not just my belly got hungry,
My heart too was starving for love.
At home I was forced into manhood
Before I was ever a child,
My innocence now has long left me,
Broken and wounded – defiled.
But I too must live Mr. Tourist,
So if I am forced to ask alms,
Then give without making me wheedle,
Don’t leave me with cold empty palms.
And when you go home to your children
And hold them within your embrace,
Remember this urchin from Naples
Has feelings as well as a face.