Cherish gift of Christmas present

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Remember the play, “A Christmas Carol” written by Charles Dickens. Sure you do. Everyone knows about Ebenezer Scrooge, the man who hated Christmas.

We call people we view as stingy “Scrooges” because of the Dickens’ character. Today, I thought about that play, not because of the stinginess of Scrooge, but because since the beginning of the season, I’ve had an Ebenezer experience.

As you recall, in the play three ghosts visit Mr. Scrooge in an attempt to thaw his frozen heart. The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes him to scenes of his boyhood and youth. The memories stir the miser’s gentler side and remind him of a time when he was innocent, kind and life was joy-filled.

That’s my Ebenezer experience. The Ghost of Christmas Past is hanging around, popping up off and on throughout the day.

While I do not think my visit is because I am a Scrooge, it does remind me of times filled with joy. In fact, this ghost stirs to life every year when I hear the first notes of Christmas carols and arrives for an extended stay about the time “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” plays on television.

The first scenes that appear in my mind are always ones from my childhood. They feature images of the streets of Opp strung with bright-colored lights and with sidewalks filled with people. I hold my Daddy’s hand as I stand in front of The Western Auto looking at the electronic Santa waving, inviting us to come in and visit Toyland.

It is a sweet memory, and I can almost hear the creak of the store’s old wooden floors and smell their musky fragrance. I stand lost in the wonder of shelves holding all manner of amazing toys and I daydream about the doll that Santa might put under our tree.

Another scene slides into place and I see the family of my childhood gathered in the living room. Piles of wrapping paper cover the floor and my parents sit on the couch sipping coffee as they watch us playing with our gifts.

The ghost takes me forward to another Christmas and I am the one sipping coffee as I watch my three older children sitting in the midst of the discarded paper and ribbons. They run to me showing me what Santa left for them.

In yet another act from my life, my new mother-in-law is with my husband, her step-grandchildren and me for our first Christmas as a family. She is so excited to have grandchildren to share her child-like love of the holiday.

Then a picture comes into focus of my youngest child when she is maybe two-years-old. We watch with delight as she rushes into the living room and discovers the little red table and chairs sitting beside the tree.

The ghost pulls me on to holiday gatherings when grandchildren run around the yard following clues left for them by a Christmas elf. I hear their laughter, see the excitement on their faces as they reach the end of their hunt and find the secret prize left just for them.

This weekend that ghost of the past will take a step back as The Ghost of Christmas Present arrives. It will go with me as I visit my mother and some of my siblings on Saturday and hang around as my grown children and teenage grandchildren arrive for our gathering on Sunday.

Unlike the Dickens’ character, my ghostly visits are not unpleasant. Even The Ghost of Yet to Come does not frighten me.

However, like Scrooge, these three ghosts do bring me a message. For Ebenezer, who was the embodiment of winter, they showed him even the coldest heart could warm and change for the better.

For me, the message is to treasure every minute of Christmas Present — the people who are here and the love we share — because all too soon The Ghost of Yet to Come will arrive bringing its inevitable changes.