Wednesday, December 24, 2008
My older siblings had a Christmas tradition that I missed out on because I was the baby. They would always burn candles on Christmas Eve, even when they had to hide it from our mother because she would have A) kicked their fannies and B) thrown the candles in the trash. We had two houses burn down when I was young, though (a couple of years apart, I think), so I can kind of understand her paranoia.
When Bobby was in Vietnam, he and my eldest sister, Nurse Jane, planned a time when they would both be burning candles at the same time on Christmas Eve. This was naturally in the days before email and internet, so I can't imagine how they managed to figure out the time difference. I don't mean they were lacking the intelligence to figure it out. But I mean, Bobby didn't exactly write a letter saying, "Okay, it's 8:00 PM here now. What time is it there." And two weeks later when the letter arrived, Jane would say, "Oh, it's _____ o'clock here now. So the time difference must be _____ hours."
Bobby came home safely from Vietnam, only to die in a motorcycle accident the next year, just months before he was to be discharged from the Marines. After he died, we started the tradition of gathering at the cemetery where he is buried and burning candles and singing "Silent Night." Apparently that was Bobby's favorite Christmas song. It was beautiful, seeing the burning candles from the highway. Some years we gathered there only to watch the wind blow the candles out repeatedly or we stood in a light rain and hoped we could keep the candles lit just long enough to sing.
Some people have thought it was rather morbid of my family to gather at a cemetery on Christmas Eve. But I loved the tradition, although it always made me sad that Bobby couldn't be there with us. I was only eleven when he died, and I always wondered at each stage of my life what he would have thought about me. More about him next month, on his birthday.
As we all married (and married and married) and started families of our own, it became too difficult for us all to gather on Christmas Eve. It is too far for some to drive for such a short time, and there are always children and grandchildren to get to other parents' and grandparents' homes. So we each carry on the tradition in our own homes, lighting a candle for each person present and one for Bobby. This way Bobby gets lots of candles instead of just one.
Before we go to bed, I'll play "Silent Night" on the piano; maybe I'll sing, maybe not. [My Christmas gift to you is that I did NOT make a video of that.] The two years that Sweet Girl has been in the Persian Gulf on Christmas Eve, I couldn't make it through the first verse. This year isn't quite that sad, because I know she's only down in Florida and not way "over there."
But I still wish Bobby and hubby could have known each other.
Merry Christmas, y'all!