A new take on the story ‘A Christ­mas Carol’

The Compass - - SPORTS - — Michelle Ber­nadette Cleary-Haire re­sides in Har­bour Grace, and is a for­mer mu­nic­i­pal leader. She is mar­ried, is the mother of three daugh­ters, and is a teacher em­ployed with the New­found­land and Labrador English School Dis­trict.

These past weeks have been busy with Christ­mas par­ties, fam­ily din­ners, con­certs, dec­o­rat­ing and work. I am sure most of you feel the same way. How­ever, I am not sure you were all vis­ited by the ghosts of Christ­mas past, present and fu­ture.

One night I was down in my cold base­ment sur­rounded by boxes yet un­packed from the move to this house in March, chairs and ta­bles still wait­ing for a warm kitchen, tools yet to be or­ga­nized, (hus­band has also been busy), lamps of all sizes, and bins hold­ing ev­ery­thing from child­hood mem­o­ries to old dishes and cards from ev­ery oc­ca­sion. There I was, stood in the midst of gifts won­der­ing how I was go­ing to get it all done and think­ing of all I still had left to get, when the Spirit of Christ­mas Past ap­peared.

A vi­sion of my old­est daugh­ter ma­te­ri­al­ized be­fore me dressed as a mer­maid, hold­ing a Bar­bie and beck­on­ing me to come with her. Sud­denly, it was 1993 and my hus­band and I were sit­ting by the Christ­mas tree hand­ing her present af­ter present. Af­ter she opened each gift I quickly passed her an­other ea­ger to see the ex­pres­sion of won­der on her beau­ti­ful lit­tle face. Each un­wrap­ping brought for­ward squeals of joy but af­ter about the 20th present, I wit­nessed some­thing I thought I would never in my life­time see — she started to cry, said she was tired of open­ing gifts and did not want to open any more.

Then she looked at me with sad eyes and asked if she could open one of her Bar­bie’s so we could play. I looked at my hus­band, who just nod­ded. If he had said, “I told you so,” I may have bawled then and there.

In­stead I let her pick a Bar­bie and we went in to the kitchen, opened it and let our imag­i­na­tions take us to the land of make-be­lieve. We played for hours!

Be­fore the Spirit of Christ­mas Past took me by the hand, she whis­pered in my ear, “I don’t need a lot of presents to be happy mommy!” As sud­denly as she had ap­peared, I was drawn back to the wrap­ping ta­ble and in to the present mo­ment, feel­ing both guilt-rid­den and ashamed. My daugh­ter smiled and said, “You will be vis­ited by the Spirit of Christ­mas Present, don’t be afraid momma and lis­ten to what she says. Re­mem­ber I love you to the moon and back!”

Then, af­ter a gen­tle hug and kiss to my cheek, she was gone.

Help with the cook­ies

All of a sud­den, I heard “Michelle Ber­nadette Cleary!” The Spirit of Christ­mas Present was here. I knew the sound of her voice im­me­di­ately — it was my mother who had passed away six Christ­mases ago.

She was stand­ing in front of me wear­ing a green bathrobe and hold­ing a cup of tea. She said, “Come with me.” Next thing I know, I was stand­ing in front of a Christ­mas tree dec­o­rated with tin­sel and gar­land and a few glass balls. My walk­ing doll was stand­ing next to my easy bake oven and new coat and boots. I was eight years old. Next to me were my two broth­ers, Donny and Tommy, play­ing with their G.I. Joes and lost in their own fun. I could smell the turkey cook­ing in the kitchen and stand­ing next to me was my beau­ti­ful mother in her Christ­mas dress and white apron, ask­ing me to come help her make cook­ies.

I was happy and felt an im­mense sense of peace. She al­ways had a way of mak­ing me feel im­por­tant.

“Don’t you re­mem­ber how much fun it was to bake with me,” she asked? “Get out of your base­ment, stop wor­ry­ing about what you have to buy and in­stead, go up­stairs with the girls and get out some dough.”

She was right and I knew it! I begged her to stay with me but she told me she had to go, she said she loved me, was watch­ing over us and that life was short and bet­ter spent with fam­ily and friends than in a mall shop­ping for gifts or a cold base­ment wrap­ping presents. She laid a lov­ing kiss on my fore­head and said, ‘I’ll see you in heaven.”

Thanks for lov­ing me

In the wink of an eye I was again stand­ing by the wrap­ping ta­ble, cry­ing like a baby, yearn­ing for my mother. Then, right in front of me, sit­ting atop the mound of presents I saw a boy all dressed in blue, about 10 years old.

He looked like an an­gel — the Spirit of Christ­mas Fu­ture had ar­rived!

“Nanny,” he smiled, “thank you for lov­ing me!”

Then, he jumped down from the ta­ble, took me by the hand and whisked me into the fu­ture. I was sit­ting by the fire­place sur­rounded by my chil­dren and their chil­dren along with other fam­ily mem­bers lis­ten­ing to my grand­child play­ing songs on the pi­ano. There were some gifts un­der the tree, but not mounds of them. In­stead, there were smil­ing faces all around and love filled the room. I was not stressed or tired and my soul felt rested. I was sur­rounded by love.

“Can you read me a Christ­mas story?” said Stephen, my old­est grand­child. “Yes, I sure can, I have all night!” The Spirit of Christ­mas Fu­ture fell asleep on my lap and just as I was about to nod off with him, I was jolted back to the cold base­ment sur­rounded by things that re­ally had lit­tle mean­ing. The gifts wrapped and those yet to be wrapped ra­di­ated no emo­tion at all, cer­tainly not the true mean­ing of Christ­mas.

Al­though I had bought each gift think­ing of the per­son it was in­tended for and feel­ing love for them while do­ing it, I had still spent a lot of money and en­ergy do­ing so. Had I ne­glected my loved ones in the rush to get the best present? Did they re­ally need all these gifts to be happy?

I knew deep in my heart, thanks to the visit from the three spir­its, that the best gift would be hav­ing my hus­band home for Christ­mas and spend­ing time with my chil­dren, fam­ily and friends. Bak­ing cook­ies with the girls and dec­o­rat­ing the house for Christ­mas would give me real joy and mem­o­ries to last for­ever. Cel­e­brat­ing the true spirit of Christ­mas also meant be­ing thank­ful to God for all that I have been blessed with.

Mis­guided pri­or­i­ties

I love Christ­mas. I al­ways have. So I fin­ished wrap­ping the gifts, went up­stairs and called the girls, ask­ing them to all be home that week­end so we could dec­o­rate the naked tree stand­ing in the liv­ing room. You see, for the first time since I could re­mem­ber, our tree was not dec­o­rated be­cause I was too busy do­ing the things I thought mat­tered more. When re­ally, is there any­thing more lovely than sit­ting with your fam­ily around the tree and en­joy­ing the beauty that is Christ­mas?

I have all that I need. I am blessed. Yes, I know that gifts are a part of Christ­mas but the best gifts we can give each other is our time and tal­ent, our com­pas­sion and car­ing and our un­con­di­tional love. So this Christ­mas, take time for your­self and re­ju­ve­nate your spirit by spend­ing time with fam­ily and friends. Re­mem­ber those less for­tu­nate and when­ever you get the op­por­tu­nity to let your in­ner child come out, do it! I will also be keep­ing Christ in Christ­mas.

My mes­sage to you is to get out and visit those you have not seen in a while and en­joy the love that sur­rounds you, but al­ways stay close to home, wher­ever home is for you.

I’ ll leave you with a quote by Calvin Coolidge:

“Christ­mas is not a time nor a sea­son, but a state of mind. To cher­ish peace and good­will, to be plen­teous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christ­mas.”

Merry Christ­mas to you and yours, from me and my fam­ily who will be “close to home” this Christ­mas.

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