Upon the threshold of my first Christmas in Gonzales, I await with that thrill of excitement, that sudden glimpse of childhood memories and overwhelming holiday warmth that seems to beckon us through the last few weeks leading up to that sacred holiday. This is certainly a feat for me at present, as the last few weeks have been filled with sickness, unexpected expenses, and unpredicted weather changes, with the holiday blues threatening at my door. Despite these minor setbacks, preparing for Christmas in Gonzales has left its mark in our home.
The tree, hand picked and chopped from Abrameit Tree Farms, stands tall and whimsically decorated before our living room window, bearing all the humble signs of a young marriage. Of course, each ornament carries with it a significant piece of definable history- the day we bought that paint-it-yourself house ornament from Hobby Lobby, which remains laughably unpainted to this day, or the purple dove with silver stitching from Mom and Dad last Christmas, or the traditional gold flat orb that says, "Our First Christmas '08" (which we still can't remember buying, but there it is nonetheless).
Other signs of Christmas cheer emanate throughout our tiny house, such as the soothing melodies of A Charlie Brown Christmas album, the constant presence of space heaters in every room, and piles of gifts with which we anticipate slightly spoiling our nieces, nephews, and younger cousins. Wrapping paper, shopping bags, scarves, house shoes, and an overcrowded coatrack speak inarguably of the time of year in the Wittman household. And in the kitchen you will find the open Better Homes Cookbook, my favorite deep red mug with nutmeg-colored rim, and the inevitable empty packets of hot chocolate.
There is something particularly soothing about tearing open a packet of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows. I think it is perhaps because it has been a staple throughout my Christmas childhood memories; memories of being 8 and getting lost with my brother in the snowy winter wonderland in our front yard, being followed by that faithful border collie, Molly (or Good Golly, Miss Molly when we were feeling particularly mischievous), and admiring the gutter's glistening collection of icicles (also known as "snow weenies" by my brother, but don't tell him I said that). Other memories include playing countless ping-pong tournaments in Papa's garage and taking a break back inside the cozy house with my cousins for some popcorn and pretzel sticks and coke.
I suppose that I am not the only citizen of Gonzales with memories of Christmases past filling the air. Perhaps you are finding yourself fighting a sickness or a particularly lethal case of the blues, or an unexpected expense is keeping you from gifting to your heart's content. I've found that the warmth of holiday cheer, whether it be found in rereading the gospels, or in Christmas cartoons or music or decorations, or simply the lingering gaze back into another time of our lives, may be precisely what the doctor ordered for reviving a joyful heart. Indeed such memories are for me a thick, warm blanket bundling my soul against any of life's threatening chill. And above all, I am thankful for the present as well as the past. So, while I may be "dreaming of a white Christmas" in the past, I am certainly thankful to be right here in Gonzales for Christmas.