Why I Told a Story About July in Christmas
Last year my sister in Christ/mentor/friend Kathi invited me to write a Christmas story. The plot, she said, could be anything I chose, so long as all the action took place on a single day–my contribution would take place five days before Christmas. Kathi wrote the first story, and ten talented writers wrote the other selections in the collection. Each of our stories was released as an individual ebook, and now they have been gathered into a paperback, 12 Days of Christmas. The official release is May 29, but the book is available now. Just sayin’.
The stories are set all over the world and in different time periods, too–from Africa’s Kalahari Desert to California, from the nineteenth century to our era. The unifying theme is that each story takes place on one of the twelve days leading up to Christmas. My contribution, Yankee Doodle Christmas, is set in a farming community in California’s central valley. The plot:
Art Historian and Los Angeles native Margot, her pastor husband Paul, and his mother, Ruth, are spending their first Christmas in Mitchell, the small town in California’s central valley they’ve been called to serve. Ruth suffers from Alzheimer’s and Margot cares for her. Eager to be accepted in the rural community, “city girl” Margot happily agreed to decorate their historic parsonage in a Nativity theme as part of the women’s club’s annual Christmas Home Tour. After all, Estelle Delsey, the stodgy old widow who has installed herself as Mitchell’s ultimate arbiter of taste and standing in the community, made it clear that the parlor display of the large pieces, hand-carved by the town’s very first pastor, was required. In her efforts to fit in, Margot even agrees to bake Mrs. Delsey’s famous butter cookies to serve during the tour.
But when Ruth confuses Christmas with the Fourth of July, Margot must choose: Does she fulfill her promise to Mrs. Delsey or humor her mother-in-law’s confusion? With some help from Paul and from her next-door-neighbor and best friend Sue, Margot is determined to honor Mitchell’s Christmas tradition and her mother-in-law. A series of surprises punctuate the day, leading to some soul-searching and a rare rebuke from her adoring husband. By the time a surprising twist ends the remarkable day, she is reminded that when she honors God, the other details seem to work themselves out.
If you asked me how I came up with this tale, I would tell you I don’t know. So please don’t ask me that. But if you asked me who I wrote this story for, I could give you an answer, and it would go like this:
I wrote this story for all of us who have ever worried that some unexpected wrench in the plans could ruin Christmas. It is so easy, too easy, to become caught up in pursuing the most elegantly-trimmed tree, the perfect arrangement of poinsettias on the hearth, a Christmas roast that looks like it was lifted from the pages of Bon Appetit, and the just-right gift for everyone, right down to the janitor at the kids’ school. This story is your invitation to remember that nothing we do, or don’t do, can make Jesus be unborn unto us.
I wrote this story for all of us who are living the heartache of dementia in our families. When illness strikes, the rest of the world doesn’t put itself on hold. No, we still celebrate Christmas and birthdays and our dogs need their vaccinations and the electric bill must be paid. Everyday life marches along even when we’re treading water in a deep, deep pool of grief.
And here’s the secret I want to share: amid the horrors and devastation of dementia, each day brings gifts and blessings. They may not be the same gifts and blessings we enjoyed before disease invaded our lives, but they are gifts and blessings nonetheless. There’s a second secret, too: We honor our loved ones when we accept the gifts and acknowledge the blessings in the midst of the hurting.
The other eleven authors are each blogging about our collection of stories. I hope you’ll visit their blogs:
May 19 – Ruth L. Snyder
May 20 – Anne Baxter Campbell
May 21 – Marcia Lee Laycock
May 22 – Mishael Witty
May 23 – Christine Lindsay
May 24 – Sheila Seiler Lagrand (You’re already here!)
May 26 – Jessica Ferguson
May 27 – Kathy Bruins
May 28 – Peg Phifer
May 29 – Jeanette Hanscome
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23 (KJV)