I've been having trouble coming up with a Christmas story to write about. It's not that my mother didn't talk about Christmas, and I have plenty of Christmas memories myself, but no particular story comes to mind.
I think that my dilemma is that life is not really made up of stories. In order to have a story, you have to have a sequence of events that leads up to a climax. There has to be continuity, and drama, and the story needs to make a point: something that illustrates a quality of the people involved, but life is not like that, not really.
Our lives are more like a stream of random events that we react to in various ways. Our "stories" really have no beginnings or ends, except for birth and death, and I expect even those events are kind of arbitrary. The way we react to the events of our lives reflects or shapes our personalities, depending on how you look at it, and we are all a complicated combination of everything we've experienced, and learned up to this or some point in our lives.
Stories are something we make up. We pick out episodes in our or in other's lives that we think are significant or entertaining. I love stories. I love telling them and I love hearing them, but they don't always reflect my real life, or the lives of the characters in my stories.
I talk to one of my cousins a lot about our family, and he reacts to the stories I write, and we don't always agree on my spin. For instance, I loved and idolized my Uncle Tom when I was little, and I enjoy telling stories about him that illustrate what a remarkable person he was. I have stories about how he helped take care of another cousin of ours, Lahoma - the "First Chickasaw Princess," after her mother's divorce (See post of Oct. 5, 2011); how he played a trick on one of his coworkers on a construction crew and how his victim got even by getting the other guys to hold Tom down while they shaved his head; how he was a Golden Gloves champion; how he tried to teach me how to box, and so on.
After reading a long bio I wrote about Uncle Tom, my cousin pointed out to me that he was really irresponsible, egotistical, and he had a volatile temper. I can't really deny those facts, but it doesn't change my opinion of Uncle Tom, and I continue to spin my stories about him to reflect my admiration.
We also have an aunt about whom our opinions differ. In her case my cousin liked her, and I didn't. Well actually I liked her until my mother told me that she was cruel to her stepson, and I have several stories about her that illustrate how selfish and mean she was. My cousin, on the other hand says that our aunt was nice to him and he refuses to change his opinion of her because of my stories. He says that they merely reflect my opinion, and my mother's.
On the other hand, sometimes there is no story. There's no dramatic event that you can build a story around to express your feelings. Again I'll refer back to my cousin. I've been trying to collect stories about my mother's brothers and sisters that represent their personalities and how they related to each other, so I asked for his help in coming up with stories about his mother, my Aunt Oteka. Other than supplying a few extra details for stories I already knew, the only thing he contributed was a description. He said that his mother was "sweet."
On that we are in total agreement. Aunt Oteka was sweet. She made me feel good just to be around her. She was a kind and caring wife and mother. She was funny, and thoughtful. She was active in her community. She volunteered at the hospital and the church. She many friends. As my mother used to say, "Everybody loved Oteka."
That brings me back to Christmas. Aunt Oteka loved Christmas. She loved the decorations, the presents, the music. She loved having her family around her, and while I still can't make a story out of it, I think Aunt Oteka's love for Christmas does illustrate who she was, and what she meant to me.
I'm going to let you read a letter Aunt Oteka wrote to me in 1963 telling me about her Christmas. She had recently been in a serious auto accident that year and had been in a coma for over a month. She came out of it with the same enthusiasm, the same sweetness as before:
I got to talk to Sam this afternoon - that's always good but I must admit the only disappointment on the call was not getting to talk with you & HRH Kaliterio too.
(Sam was a nickname Aunt Oteka gave my mother while she was helping take care of her after the accident. HRH stands for "Her Royal Highness." My mother, Wenonah, and Aunt Kaliteyo started putting HRH in front of their names after watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. "Kaliterio" is just a silly way of saying Aunt Kaliteyo's name. Aunt Oteka and her husband Thurman lived in Odessa, Texas, and her two sisters, my mother Wenonah and Aunt Kaliteyo, lived in Oklahoma City. Oteka's son Steve and I were away at College at the time.)
I called on purpose on Sun. so we could all have a good session. Anyway I sent my Howdy personally and I'll just try and complete one letter and ask you to accept another apology for me being as late as usual.
Everyone, I think, is ready for Xmas but me and this old Santa Claus is about to have a nervous breakdown because she can't go Xmas shopping, can't think of anything to send someone to town for & can't even decorate the house. The Dr. says I must be patient that this will take time. I think I've given it plenty of time already & having to spend most of my time in bed when I'd rather be enjoying the Xmas season is just plain disgusting!
I have something simply wonderful to tell you! About 6:30 tonight in come the Grigsbys, the Moffits, the Momans, Handleys and Brownings - all of them were singing Jingle Bells, wishing me a Merry Xmas & bringing me such a beautiful package. They made me open it before Xmas. I did and it was the AM - FM radio I have wanted for so long. They all of course telling me I could have all the Xmas music now, etc. Robin, this is a group of my friends that we have all been together during the Xmas season every year. This year they didn't have their annual Xmas bridge party because they would have had to replace Thurman & I to have the 3 foursomes it takes & they told me they absolutely refused to replace me ever! I have really wanted an FM so I could always have beautiful music thru the day and especially this year I have missed the Xmas music - I admit all this but I sincerely want to say that I have the most wonderful family & the most wonderful friends in the whole world! It means so very much to me, it's very hard to describe and to express how I feel but the card they brought me expresses the way I feel about my friends, beautifully. I want all of you to hear the card & be happy about it with me so here goes -
"Once in a while a friend is found who proves right from the start,
To be the special kind of friend who really warms the heart.
Once in a while a friendship's made that's really lasting, too,
And that's the kind of friendship I have known since I met you!"
I just can hardly describe all of this - They plugged in my radio, the first thing I heard was an orchestra doing the Messiah, but we all heard at my front door, another Xmas song - sure enough there was a big group out there, singing for me! I knew most of them, some were Scouts that I'd known from Tenderfoot to Eagle. The bunch were from St. Paul's. They sang about 5 or 6 long songs & it was so very cold out there I couldn't see how or why they would. I had gotten up when I heard them and made it to the front door so I could see them. They threw me kisses & waved. Thurman went out & took pictures of the group so I could keep it. You just can't imagine how very happy I am tonite Robin & always will be because of the many wonderful things that have happened. I have so very many wonderful friends and I am so very grateful -
HRH Kaliterio called last nite - sure was good getting to tell her about my wonderful day. I missed not getting to talk to you again but you will have sweet little Molly's pictures I hope by Xmas. I'll close so the postman can at least start this on its way. Sure hope all of you have a very Merry Xmas!
Lots of love,
I had driven down to see Aunt Oteka on Thanksgiving with Aunt Kaliteyo and we took Molly my new puppy along. Here's a picture of Aunt Oteka playing with Molly.
Aunt Oteka, 1963
PS: I guess this turned into a story after all, but I will stick to my thesis. There wasn't any single event that made Aunt Oteka special. It was every day of her life!