“He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Acts 14:17 NIV
We are in the hustle and bustle season again. No snow on the ground yet to slow travel to a crawl, but traffic is still bumper to bumper. “Extra” shoppers crowd the streets and the shopping aisles from Thanksgiving until after we have welcomed in the New Year. If I get stuck idling in traffic, which inevitably happens, I ask myself the same question every year, where do all these people come from? The grocery aisles are crammed and checkout lines are long, but if I need to buy groceries, the “extra” folks must get hungry, too.
Folks around here who celebrate this winter holiday probably have a to-do list to remind them that they still have gifts to purchase and wrap, plus trees to decorate with lights and ornaments, and trays of cookie dough to bake, which will fill houses with the warm aroma of ginger and cinnamon. Finally, family and friends will gather to eat, open gifts, snack on delicious remainders, and, of course, make snow angels if one is lucky enough to have freshly fallen snow. As the afternoon draws to a close, merrymakers, chilled to the bone from outdoor play, will sip hot chocolate between bites of soft gingerbread cookies. There are bound to be a few sugar-coma-induced naps, most likely for those with less pep in their step.
Your version may vary slightly or a lot. Mine exists mostly in my memory. I experience sadness every year around this time since losing my firstborn to suicide. I have family who visit, and I love them dearly, but there is one forever missing from our family gatherings going forward. He is still much loved and remembered. If you follow my blog, you know that we often talk about loss and all the many “someones” we love and miss. It’s just not the same without them with us at holidays.
Holidays are supposed to be filled with the pleasure of sharing good food, love, and laughter. Many of us will come from all directions to spend time together. We share favorite foods and stuff ourselves. We enfold those we love as they arrive, and hug the stuffing out of them. When the holiday time is over, we return home stuffed with memories to treasure and savor until the next special gathering.
My mind quite naturally goes to a memory where the word “stuffing” is a verb. With your indulgence let’s segue to a warm month so I can share a memory that takes me back to the days when my children were young explorers, and summer vacations were filled to the brim with activities. Since my husband and I are in the sunset years of our lives, we find ourselves pulling out these old memories to enjoy again and again.
One particular summer Grandpa had joined us, and we were spending our vacation in Yellowstone National Park having a grand time. Off the beaten path we stopped to watch a chipmunk diligently doing her business. Shhhh, kids. Be careful not to scare her. Excited children aren’t naturally quiet, but Ms. Chipmunk was too focused on what she was doing to be chased from her territory.
Then we got an idea. We had some crackers in the car. Let’s feed her! Certainly she’d like the crackers we packed to snack on as much as we did, so out came the tasty wheat squares. We tossed one in her direction and waited. She darted here and there and then got a whiff . . . food . . . and without having to work for it. Nice! Now began the fun watching her stuff her face. Ms. Chipmunk quickly discovered that putting a square cracker in her round pouch was not as easy as it looked. With her tiny paws she worked it round and round, as if trying to smooth off the edges to make a way for it to go in. Finally, in it went, and she scampered off with her treasure. She must have dumped her booty somewhere nearby because we didn’t have to wait long until she was back for more. Again and again we tossed a cracker to her and watched her maneuver it just right so she could haul it away in her “purse”.
What fun we had feeding and watching Ms. Chipmunk stuff herself for future meals. What fun we have had over the years gathering for holidays, making memories, catching up with each other’s lives, laughing and playing, and yes, stuffing our faces. Not unlike Ms. Chipmunk, we’ll likely do it again this year. Although it hurts to celebrate without all of our children present, they will always be in our family circle of love.
In spite of our losses, we still have blessing to count, do we not? An added bonus for believers is that we are grateful anew for the Christ child.
“May the Lord himself, who is our source of peace, give you peace at all times and in every way.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 GNT
NIV = New International Version; GNT = Good NEWS Translation