It seems to me that this time of year we are subjected to all kinds of expressions of happiness, joy, and such, particularly those associated with family and friends. We see reruns of the heart-warming “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the delightful “Miracle on 34th Street”, a number of versions of the tale of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, and, of course, endless repetitions of Rudolph’s rescue of Santa’s Christmas mission.
Then, too, the Hallmark channels are presenting nonstop movies about how, shortly before Christmas, a tall, beautiful, young woman with long hair meets a tall, handsome, young man with short hair . The story line varies somewhat from movie to movie, but generally involves how despite, encountering a number of vicissitudes in their relationship, they manage to fall in love just in time for Christmas. (“Vicissitudes” is a neat four-dollar word that means “unpredictable changes, shifting fortunes, etc, that occur in life”. The only problem is that it’s difficult inserting it into a conversation because folks don’t know what it means.)
Yep, this is the time for a “White Christmas” where everything is “merry and bright”, right? Well, unfortunately, this is not always the case. Nope, there are also “Gray Christmases” where everything appears in varying shades of gray.
I vividly recall Christmas of 1949. I had just turned 18, and was away from home for the first time working my way through my freshman year at college when I got word just before Christmas that my father had died. I remember how cold it was as I hitchhiked my way home – I had no other means of getting there.
My memories of that Christmas include the cold, dark day of Dad’s funeral and the stark realization that Mom was faced with raising my four younger brothers on her own. We discussed whether I should drop out of school, but the family decision was that I should continue as long as I could since I was making my way on my own through scholarships and working. To this day, my recollection of that time is that there was no color – everything in my memory remains in shades of gray. A Gray Christmas.
I suppose this memory kinda surfaced now because we were recently talking with a long-time friend, “DP”, who told us that he, along with a number of his co-workers had been given “Termination of Employment” notices by their employer. Yep, they, including one guy who had been with the company for close to forty years, have been “let go” just in time for Christmas.
The company cited ” the requirement for realigning personnel resources in keeping with the changing corporate structural plan” – whatever that means. He was assured this action was nothing personal – it was simply a business decision. Sounds a lot like what’s happening to those hundreds of General Motors employees who have received similar notices, doesn’t it? Nothing personal? How personal can you get?
DP, like the many others who have lost their jobs, faces the bleak reality of meeting the mortgage, car, and utility payments and getting food on the table without a paycheck. In DP’s case, his wife of thirty-some years died not long ago after a long bout with cancer and so he also has residual obligations following her death – and I imagine other recently dismissed folks have comparable situations. Not a “merry and bright White Christmas” for DP – more of a dark gray one.
DP’s only son and grandchildren live some thousand miles away so his spending Christmas with them would be difficult and expensive particularly in his current situation. We most certainly don’t want him to be alone for Christmas and so have invited him to spend the holiday with us – you know, we made one of those arm-twisting won’t-take-no-for-an-answer offers he couldn’t refuse.
Our plans include his attending family Christmas Eve services with us and having a traditional home cooked Christmas Day dinner with roast turkey and all the trimmings – and enough leftovers for turkey sandwiches and pie later. Yep, we intend his having a family-type Christmas as “merry and bright” and as less gray as we can.
Well, we personally can’t do much for those other folks who have lost their jobs, but we can help some people hereabouts by supporting Bridges of Hope – the local organization that provides food and shelter for the homeless and in need of help. These individuals are likewise facing a Gray Christmas, but perhaps with enough community support, their holiday will be a bit less dark. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a regular Greene County Daily columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.