the winter pine


“As the Bridegroom was delayed…”
~Matthew 25:5~

Dad and I used to stay up late Christmas night.

He’d have his coffee in hand, reclined in his chair with his eyes looking up.  From mid-November all the way to the end, the music was on, the voices so beautiful and haunting,  my soul taken up by the angels and ghosts.  I laid on the floor by the tree.

Santa delivered his gifts. The kids played our part and opened them. Breakfast was just enough to keep us hungry, for certain was the feast while spending the day at Grandma’s, crawling with toys in our tights and our dresses, filling up on milk and cookies.

If the others knew, they never mentioned it.  Dad and I were the ones who noticed.  Come Christmas afternoon, the snow began to melt away.  There was always this feeling like we were saying goodbye, like we’d finished the race but were only just beginning.


There was always this feeling like someone was missing.


Like God has done exactly what He came here to do


Like Christmas has come and delivered the dream.

Christmas morning 

That Reckless Christmas
by Winn Collier

I planned for the Christmas of 1988 for at least 7 months.

It was my senior year in high school, and I knew everything in my world would be changing. Soon, I’d leave home for college and I’d move into new orbits and of course, I’d be scraping pennies for the foreseeable future. So beginning in May, I revved up the lawnmower and went to work, cutting yards all summer and squirreling away almost every dollar. In December, I reached deep into the top drawer where, for months, I’d stashed my loot and pulled out fistfuls of greenbacks. I spread the treasure onto the floor, mouth agape. There I was, like Scrooge McDuck, rollicking in all the wealth. I counted $1250.

For the next two weeks, I went on a buying spree, intending to surprise my family (including my grandparents and Great Grandma Sparks) with the most lavish gifts on Christmas morning. I don’t remember a thing I bought, save one. At Service Merchandise, I found a combo tape player/radio deck that mounted under the kitchen cabinet, above the counter. My mom, a musical soul if ever there was one, could listen to Perry Como or the London Philharmonic while whipping up her chicken, broccoli and rice casserole or her parmesan chicken bites.

While I don’t remember most of the gifts, I remember the feeling. I remember wrapping those boxes and slipping them under the tree, so eager for everyone to catch first sight of them and wonder what in blue Christmas blazes was going on. I remember my joy at watching them unwrap their presents, the joy at doing something that felt, to a 17 year old, outrageous.

Some of us poo-poo gift-giving this time of year, and I acknowledge we’ve run amuck with our lust for more. I can only say I’m so glad I spent a summer sweating and saving, that I blew every dime I had, saying “I love you” in one grand, extravagant gesture that, for me, felt like tossing a match onto a pile of cash. And I think my mom was grateful too; she kept that tape player in the kitchen long after cassette tapes were overwhelming landfills the world over. It stayed right there until the day mom and dad said goodbye to that old house. I like to think that some days, after I was off in Colorado or South Carolina with a family of my own, that she would stop and look at that worthless pile of metal and plastic and smile and maybe put her hand to her breast and remember.

christmas eve

Another Christmas Eve is just about in the books.


We’re home now and it looks like we’ll get to bed at a decent time.  I just told my mom today about all the exciting little basics of life I’ve been discovering this year.  One of them was the gift of a good night’s sleep–the simple joy of going to bed early.

We got our late night out of the way before we left.  Right now I’m in our room, breaking before the final stride of setting out the gifts.  The presents are piled up behind me, tucked under the comforter we had when we first got married.  I can hear the kids downstairs.

Dad just came in to get the train.  During my last trip out, I stopped by Toys R Us for two things and came out with three.  The Christmas trains were 50% off.  That was enough for me to stop and consider the simple joy of a train around the Christmas tree.

I didn’t have to think about it long.




making a list

“Help me understand”, he says.

Mark my words, this is no easy task.  The week before Christmas has overlapped with the moon, and we both understand we both need to be careful.   We’ve loved through thirteen years of Christmases to get to these words.

He stands up from his chair and comes closer.

“When people talk about losing their minds, that’s what it’s like, like something got lost. It’s like I can’t see anything.  I can see the table.  I can see the papers on the table.  But I can’t see past the papers.  I can’t think past the papers.”

I never claimed to be articulate.

He picks up a pencil and reaches for the paper.  I just read somewhere that the shortest pencil is stronger than the longest memory.  When I was a girl, I knew birthdays and addresses and phone numbers by heart.  I don’t need to write things down.

“Tell me what still needs to be done.”

He waits. One by one, little by little, I watch as the shorted circuits of my thoughts become something I can see.  Tomorrow Aunt Donna is coming over for six hours to make bread and I’ve got one last shopping trip before the presents are complete.

But now I’ve got this list.

It’s like a light bulb just came on.

And I can see what I’ve been missing.