I Want to be Remembered for This
by Trudy Boyle
Seven years ago, when I was baking special Christmas cookies called Basler Brunsli, made from almonds, chocolate, sugar, egg whites and spices (hmm, I guess this makes them gluten free as well as delicious) my grandchildren Sophie and Rowan were close at hand, faces aglow, as I removed them from the oven. They were four and eight, at the time.
Sophie leaned over and quietly said this to her younger brother, as he eyed the tray of small, chocolate bears. “Rowan, you need to know that Nana turns a blind eye to the cookies at Christmas.”
At that moment, I felt pure delight and my one and only moment of enlightenment. It seemed to me at the time, that I had done something so supremely good in my world and I hadn’t even been aware of it. As I looked into the faces of these dear children, I was grateful to be the one who “turned a blind eye to the cookies at Christmas.” They were unaware that I had overheard the conversation. I thought then, as I still think now, this is enough for me. This is what I want to be remembered for.
And it isn’t completely about the cookies.
It is about the confidence they have in me that at Christmas time they can enjoy these special little cookies with ease and joy and on their own terms. When I open the freezer and see crumbs scattered and the container not fully closed, I smile to myself.
Am I worried that they would eat too many and get sick? Nope. I’m not. It hasn’t happened yet. My confidence in the ritual of certain traditions and the knowledge that chocolate is also a vitamin (vitamin CH) allows me to celebrate their joy. And that is one of several reasons why I love Christmas.
I also understand why Christmas gets a bad rap. I mostly avoid those aspects by staying out of malls, not being caught up in the excesses of it all, and, instead, concentrating on small things that mean something to me and my family. I claim my own traditions and ignore the rest.
The Christmas tree is another example. In the darkness of November and December, in our northern climate, we need to warm our bodies and souls. Lights, candles, fireplaces, good food and a beautiful green tree in the house does just that, for me, along with the good company of loved ones. The fragrance of the noble fir transports me to a wondrous place the moment I come in from the cold and my senses are greeted by that old, familiar smell.
As we decorate our tree, we dedicate the first few favorite ornaments to others and say why. It turns the process into a reflective and fun event as we sometimes have tears and laughter in our remembering. After a couple of rounds, we go back to finding just the right spot for whatever decoration we hold in our hands, and then at random times one of us pauses (me, in this case) and says: “I want to dedicate this beautiful star to X,” as an example. The children always remember their family who live in different areas of the country: Grandma and Grandpa, Opa and so on…they eventually all get named. If not this year, next.
Don’t get me wrong. I too can be overwhelmed at Christmas, and still, I love it. This year will once again be a quieter Christmas, with time to sit and admire the tree and contemplate all the beautiful memories strung from bough to bough. Yet, there may be a wonderful surprise of Opa, Father Christmas, showing up. That is if weather, airlines, and viruses allow. Opa brings even greater joy to this special season and the house will ring with music, laughter, and storytelling. And always the tree to glance at, in all its splendor.
Several years ago, a new friend was dismayed that I had a real tree in my home at Christmas.
“It must be a very small one,” she commented.
“No,” I said. “It is always very tall and beautiful.”
There was silence.
Despite her disapproval, I could not disavow my love for the Christmas tree. I like to think the tree enjoys being in our home where it is so deeply admired and appreciated by all, every single day.
And so, the holidays have arrived, and all of us arrive with our own traditions of bringing light to the darkness. My tradition just happens to be Christmas, but I am so interested in the vast variety of traditions around the world. I would love to hear about yours.
However, we choose to spend this time, may it be with love and joy and yes, sadness too, for all of our losses. May we say yes to what is important and meaningful and no to the things that no longer matter to us.
I do urge you, nonetheless, to celebrate all that is good in your lives and not succumb to the cynicism and despair that can so easily gather in a crowd of sorrows. Find your people, those who light you up, and be that light to others.
Warmest wishes, Trudy
I took this photo of the tree in old Quebec City, a few years ago. As I roamed around this magical winter wonderland, delightful surprises emerged around every corner. This is my favourite image from that day.