Thank you, Barbara, for inviting me to post on your sight. I thought I'd take you on a trip down memory lane with me. A trip to the past. To a season in the world I knew as a child.
The year is 1969.
Lyndon Johnson was president. The USA was at war with Vietnam. And my father, a tech-sergeant in the Air Force, had just received orders to Germany.
A third grader, naive on world issues and highly impressionable, I watched my parents make travel preparations with a keen interest. Our household goods; furniture, toys, bikes, housewares, and personal items were sorted and separated into two distinct piles, one for Germany and the other for storage.
At the time, I thought everything, except the suitcase we would take on the plane, was going into storage.
I thought my father was shipping the truck, our old Chevy, to Germany because it had a camper and that's what we had to live in. We were leaving civilization and going to some backwoods place, to the treacherous unknown, and would be living in a twelve-foot camper.
We were a family of seven! There were six women in all, in my family, and a mere camp potty between us. How would that work? I already had to fight for the bathroom. It would be awful.
Germany would be awful.
Worst of all, we were leaving in October and wouldn't get to spend Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's with family, like we usually did. We wouldn't get to see our cousins. I was certain it would be horrible.
Imagine my surprise when we got to Germany and found out it's very much like the USA. The people actually live in houses, and have indoor plumbing. Who'd have thought?
The first place the Air Force put us was in an eight-bedroom apartment, with a long hall that spanned the two apartments below. Each of us girls had our own rooms, and thanks to the hallway, a sock-skating rink.
How many kids could lay claim to that?
I still wanted to be home, in Colorado, for Christmas, but the longing was soothed by the fact that we had a cool place to live and of course, I wasn't alone. Germany wasn't too bad.
Come Christmas, that hallway, adorned by our imaginations, became a tree-lined drive, covered with sparkling snow. A blanket became our sleigh. We each took turns playing the horse, pulling each other through the snow as we ran down the hall. We rang bells and sang carols at the top of lungs. And we laughed.
Then the downstairs neighbors, the Scrooges, had to go and complain. Bah Humbug
Our sleigh was laid back on the bed -- folded and pleated in the best military fashion. Imagination faded back to a hallway with several doors. Even sock-skating didn't hold the fascination.
I figured that would be okay. I still had Christmas. We had a tree -- one of those new fandangled silver jobs that looked like slivers of aluminum wrap -- and there were going to be lots of presents. I know… my four sisters and I had found the hidden stash in a wardrobe in our parents' room.
I had already laid claim to a certain doll.
She was a beautiful doll. She stood about three feet tall with platinum blonde hair. She wore a red sweater with a cream pleated skirt. And she had boots and socks to match.
Unfortunately, my plans for the doll were thwarted.
I skipped out to the living room on Christmas morning, certain I would find that doll with my name-tag upon it. I picked it up, started to play with it, and realized the name on the tag wasn't mine. It was my sister’s
My parents had given my doll… to someone else.
I think I hated Germany after that. Not only had my doll been taken away; I couldn't even tell you what my Christmas gift was. Then we moved out of temporary quarters, into a smaller four-bedroom apartment. No more long hallway to skate on, no more room of my own, and my sister still had my doll.
I meandered through the year, wishing I could go home, to the United States to Colorado. I found cause to hate most everything, Germany, the country, Zweibrcken, the town. I even hated the base we lived on. We were an Air Force family on an Army base, which made life harder.
Of course telling the other kids that my father was there because their fathers didn't know what to do and my father needed to show them, didn't help. Nor did it help for me to tell the kids whose father’s were Air Force, who lived on the rival Air Force base just across town, that we weren't there because we were too good. I was an outcast in both branches of service. But I didn't care. I didn't want to be there.
The holidays made their yearly rounds, and I really didn't want a thing to do with them.
Then something happened to change my mind about what Christmas and life was all about. Something happened that peeled away a bit of my selfishness and innocence.
On the military bases, they began to pass out Prayer Bracelets. Engraved on these bracelets were the names of the men who were serving in Vietnam. Some were missing in action, some were prisoners. All were away from their families. We were supposed to pray for the men and women on the bracelets and their families.
A song came out about that time that touched me, as well. It was on a Wayne Newton album, and it told the story of a little six-year-old boy missing his daddy at Christmas, and the letter he sent to Santa. Following are the words:
I hope you can read my writing, 'cause I know it's not too good. But after all… that's why I go to school. Yeah, I've been good. Mommy wrote last year's letter. Now that I can write, Mom says I should write myself. I've got a big wish. Know what? You must have moved, 'cause last year I sent Mom’s letter to the North Pole. It's too cold, huh? I hope it's not as cold where you are now, Santa.
How’s Rudolph? I love the stuff you brought last year; the football… the train… the blocks and all. We had a lot of fun, but Mom said to quiet down, 'cause the train whistle made her head hurt.
Santa, this year I'm six, and I want something really big. So can you give my toys to Greggy? He's the kid down the road. You know… the one with the red hat? Cause you know, Santa, he don't get many. And Santa, if you can keep a secret and promise not to tell Mommy, I cried last night, Santa. Ya know why I cried? 'Cause what I want for Christmas… I want my Daddy.
Now I didn't much believe in Santa, but the words brought me to tears just the same. I knew several children in my school alone whose fathers wouldn't be home for Christmas, while mine, because of his security clearance, didn't have to go to Vietnam and was home.
Christmas suddenly took on new meaning. Gifts were okay, so was the tinsel, tree and lights, but to have my father, and mother there, to have family… even if my sister did get the present I wanted, was far more important.
Through the years life has succeeded in driving that point home.
Early in my marriage my husband was in the Navy, and I spent several Christmases with him gone on deployment, trying to have a Merry Christmas with my sons when their father couldn't be there. Thankfully, I could usually spend it with my own parents, which helped ease the pain.
This year I'm far from the third grader. My father has since died. 16 years have passed since his death, but there is not a year that goes by that I don=t long to see my father coming through the door, or have him here passing out the gifts or telling the Christmas story. At times. I actually wait with baited-breath, only to realize he's not coming.
Time passes, and life still brings more lessons.
Now after almost 30 years, my husband and I moved from Colorado to Arizona. Due to economic reasons we had to move to find a job. It has been a major life changing event. Not one I'm quite sure I like yet. Come Christmas it is doubtful there will be snow. Come Christmas my family probably won't be able to get together as we did for the last several years, as my youngest still lives in Colorado with two of my grandchildren. Yes, I have family here in Arizona with me, and I'm thankful.
I know I'm not the only one facing a hard Christmas, the world is in turmoil, our nation is nearly bankrupt and many families are fighting to stay above water financially, emotionally. There are still many serving in war zones. Still many families waiting for loved ones to return home. Still families who must face this Christmas after losing someone they love.
I pray everyone has a beautiful Christmas and they feel the true gift of the season, pray they feel the warmth of peace and feel Christ's love, encircling them and their families.
And there are still days, actually, most every time, when I play that song, the song about a young boy's letter to Santa. I cry. And I find myself drafting my own letter. Only mine would say...
I hope you can read my writing, 'cause I know it's not too good. Please forgive me for dropping so many tears on the ink. Please forgive me for not coming to you even sooner and more faithfully.
Jesus, I love the blessings you sent last year. Help me not to forget all that you've done for me. Help me to remember that you keep my husband, children, grandchildren, family and myself in your hands. Help me to remember that my father is with you and I will see him in eternity. Remind me to pray for all those who are hurting this year and missing loved ones of their own.
And, Dear Jesus, help me to remember, when I feel like the world has gone crazy, when I become too selfish and involved in me, that Christmas is a time of giving. And giving doesn't always mean in monetary, it can be time and prayers. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for coming to earth as a baby so that you could offer yourself as a sacrifice. My sacrifice. Help me not to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas.
Thank you, Jesus.
May you have a bright and glorious holiday season, filled with love and laughter. May the gathering of friends and family provide you with precious memories. May the new year overflow with blessings and the fulfillment of dreams. I pray this season, and those to come, are filled with hope and the peace that only comes from Christ.
After nearly 20 years, Tina Pinson moved from Grand Junction, Colorado and now resides in Mesa, AZ with her husband of 30+ years, Danny. Due to the economy they were forced to let Omega Avionics go. The Pinsons have three grown sons, a beautiful daughter-in-law and 5 grand children.
Gifted with a vivid imagination at a young age, Tina started writing in elementary school. (it was that or get in trouble for lying). She has chosen several creative outlets; writing poetry, songs, or stories.
Tina has completed the following novels. Winds Across the Rockies, To Carry her Cross, When Shadows Fall, Shadowed Dreams, To Catch a Shadow, A Shadowed Trail, This Shadowed Land, and The Shadow of Her Smile are serial about the civil war and the Oregon trail. Then Came Grace, a contemporary story about a future Sept 11 type tragedy. Trail of the Sandpiper-Betrayed, Trail of the Sandpiper-Rescued and Trail of the Sandpiper-Avenged, a WWII series about a missionary and spy.
Coming Soon Through Desert Breeze Publishing The first three books in the Civil War/ Oregon trail Saga, The Shadow Series.
When Shadows Fall, Shadowed Dreams, To Catch a Shadow.
Available now through Desert Breeze Publishing
In the Manor of the Ghost -- June 2010
Touched By Mercy -- December 2010
A short story can be found in Living By Faith through Obadiah Press.
Beyond writing, Tina enjoys building, gardening, singing, speaking and some biking. She and her husband hope to get out more into God’s country and do some camping. She continues to work on other stories, and hopes more will find a publishing home soon.