Finding Christmas Spirit, Again.

Finding Christmas Spirit, Again.

“Well, what are my eyes seeing tonight? Look at you, back once more.  Yes, I'm surprised to see you making another climb up the hill.  All I can ask, is why? I thought by now you awaken to understanding, you know, the circle of life, one that no one can change no matter how hard you try.'' Asked the conductor trainer, as we walked past the beginner's side of the hill to go where we needed to be.

It didn't matter if his question was directed so abruptly at us. We knew where he was coming from to be asking. Just the look on his face, he tells our story, and yes, he is right. Why are we here, again?

 I guess we’d better explain what the heck this story is about. First, I know we are not alone in this story. A lot more out there will understand and for some reason continue to make the same climb. But there are some, who don't know the price of the path placed upon them, and without warning, will be subject to follow our same journey.

 You will recognize through our story if you are indeed destined for this bittersweet challenge. Trust in us, all who are listening, we are certain there are many more to be addicted to the hill and once the climb starts, it will not stop as the years pass. Why! The answer appears simply now, we did not accept the life cycle and its destiny. Still, you will do it; hoping, praying, believing, and with the fear, that once you stop, so will that opportunity to receive that beginner’s happiness on the hill.

 So, our story to you began with smiling happy excited faces hugging into each of us as December approaches.  Gifts of toys, candies, hugs, love, kisses, thank you, and yes, to hear on that special morning, ‘Mom, you got me exactly what I wanted,’ as thankfulness gleams in their eyes of receiving. Then your gift, the most precious of all to receive is the sight of their loving faces as their wishes are fulfilled on Christmas morning.

 And then, something changed as the years passed by. Something you did not want to happen, but it did. The circle of life has taken place, but you are refusing to accept it. Was it our fault for being blinded by it? I don't know. Maybe, not wanting to know the true answer, we simply can’t stop it.

 And so, staying blinded by the truth, the Hill became less exciting and more challenging to climb. The once smiling faces with eyes of love and appreciation started to fade on top of that hill. Your joy of providing the gifts they wanted, somehow, for some reason, excitement on their part, appeared more of an expectation that they will receive them anyway. Why not! We did not change with the cycle as the climbs continued.

 Yet, you promise yourself, just one more climb up Christmas Hill, not accepting the reality, little children will grow. You continue anyway, in the hope of seeing that joy to be the same and receiving that acceleration you once used on your train to make it to the top.

 You may drive a full-speed train now, but you will not be alone with one. You will continue to not accept the changes, as each year your children will grow from that first hill trip, and it will then slowly take them on a different route from what you cherish while you refuse to let go. You will always remember watching them talk with excitement about the surprises you will carry up the Christmas Hill, and you will joyfully see how it was received with love and appreciation. Oh, those moments, those special moments cause you to not let go and continue another climb, one after another.

 Like us tonight and it will happen, that excitement will slowly leave you too. It is natural for it to happen, but it is not natural for us to hang on to what once was. They are on their own, and the life cycle begins a new growth in a new world around them and without wanting it to happen, will not always include you, even on special occasions like Christmas. All the work you prepared with gifts of material value for the Christmas Hill climb, in the hope they will hang around that day with you. Talk of excitement that will slowly leave as you conduct your train, all because you did not want to accept natural change.  Every mother and father will want that kind of ride, but we never want it to end.

 Then without warning, it will happen to you too. You will realize that you can’t stop the nature of change. Why in the beginning was it so hard to accept, knowing you had to change yourself during your cycle in life?

 Is it that we are missing the child's excitement or that we become lonely, even desperate for them to show that level of childhood love again? Are you hoping they will deliver it back double-fold? Yes, maybe it is all of it because we closed our eyes on the climb.

 You will see for yourself that each run will begin without accepting, that time will change its course. And so, the gifts too, will change.  No more toys as money will become the biggest gift request, along with gift cards, and then, the expensive item that they don't want to pay for themselves, but knowing you started the climb, you will again surprise them with it.

 Why had it taken so long for us to accept the changes that needed to happen and without warning to leave the runs no longer fun? How can it be, that they are no longer little children? It's time to look around and see that they have grown into their own lives to handle and yet, you desperately hang on to one more climb in hope the old joy will stay.  We refuse to give up that craving to the point, that you will sit just like us now taking the final climb.

 You will wake up to accepting that you can't buy love. You can't buy happiness. And you know, we mean, for ourselves. You found out the hard way, you were simply buying it until there was no return ticket of joyful love. Oh, what had taken so long to understand, we were carrying the wrong gifts all alone.

 I know this is my last run. I did give it my all, so I thought.  I’m sure you did too. I gave my last cent and didn't care what I suffered by doing so just to give a child his desire for a hug and smile in return. Why would I care, I just wanted to be shown that glow of love from my children. Just one more climb to feel that again. However, this Christmas, not like the last number of Christmases, I now understand what I had been doing wrong with the gifts I delivered. I’m sure you are thinking the same as I look over at you sitting silently in your driver’s seat.

 Yes, I can see the changes that I must make as my train comes to a stop. For me, I know the children will arrive at the home with smiles and be anxious to open the cards, knowing it to be either money or gift cards. I know that the beautiful card(s) that took time to search for, saying, how much I love each one; that same card will be found empty under the tree. They just forgot it now. They are not being disrespectful. It happens. Love and appreciation are still inside them. They have grown and expressed it differently in their new world. But their visit is not long anymore because of other commitments that circle them. They must leave once again.

Then it is said as they must leave, 'So sorry Mom, I wish I could stay, and the many reasons as to why they can't.

 Once more, pain. Then with love, you hold back the tears bursting to escape from behind a broad smile as you tell them, you understand their situation, and not to worry. Telling them to come by soon when they have time. Inside, your heart is crying a river fall of tears. The moment you hoped for disappears. The gifts you thought would make it all happen, just didn't do the trick. You thought you had given everything you possibly could.

Left alone, another night by the Christmas tree, not in the hope this time, but in pain, defeat, and loneliness, only to question yourself for all to go wrong.

 You will end up questioning yourself, yes, that is what you do. You did not believe at the time; you were partly to blame for not accepting the nature of life changes. You felt hurt from pain and anger not created by them but yourself.

 Soon enough, you will end up here at the bottom of the hill, sitting in the seat of your train, just like many other conductors at the far end of the hill climbing in the hope while not accepting life to change.  You too will shy away from looking at the new conductors with smiling faces and excitement inside them fueling their train. No, like us tonight, you too, will sit, take a deep breath, and hope, yes hope again that once at the top of the hill, our gift of Christmases pass will still be waiting.

 ''So, Conductor trainer, to answer your question. I was once like the new ones arriving, excited, just the adrenaline along carried my train to the hilltop, so now I understand why I'm here and what I must do.  It is my last run; I finally understand and accept the circle of life on this last climb and allow my children to begin theirs.

In the morning, once I reach the top, there will be a note with their gifts under the tree, the door will always be open for them to enter. A mother’s love never dies, and I understand nor does a child, it just takes on new avenues of expression towards us, and with children and extended families of their own, it must change. It will not disappear, just given differently.  The circle of life changes and so do circumstances to not connecting as often as we want them to, especially at Christmas, not because of lost love, but the circle itself, and so my note will read to each one,

My child, so kind of you to make time to stop by and pick up your gifts. Trust me, I truly understand how busy life is for you now. Finally, I realize that I have been hanging onto the past. It may have taken many climbs to understand the circle of life happens to all of us, and you are no different. Embrace it.  Truly, I understand, remember I was once where you are now, but not wanting it to happen to you. Sorry for any pressure I may have added. You have your own life, starting with your own family, and it's your time to build that circle and keep building. I know I will always be a part of it, but not all of it. Finally, I realized I must open my circle again. Yes, it is what we must do as our children grow into their own. Thank you for the earlier years of joy, excitement, and wonderment of waking up Christmas morning together as you were just children during my circle of life. The joy and happiness you gave on that special day will always be cherished and you will find it now with your own children.

I loved every Christmas that we shared as a close family. You will too with yours.  It's now your train ride to take and your commitment to make. I hope that kind of joy will never leave you on Christmas morn as you begin your climb but know when to let go. My train is now parked, it was surely a good ride as I watched you grow into adults. So, for you to understand, I love you, but today I am busy with an important commitment. Don’t worry I am OK. I'm off to where that childhood joy will find me. I love you always and will see you soon. If you want to join me at the soup kitchen, an extra set of hands will always be welcomed, so I am told.''

Yes, that's my note and that's my gift of understanding to them.

 In the morning when I stop, there will be a new excitement waiting for me. I will be a volunteer at the soup kitchen. I cannot wait. I will be surrounded by many families wanting comfort and love. I know that feeling well as I am blessed to have experienced it if only just realizing this now. I will even get to hold babies, while moms can eat. I will play with children receiving little toys that I collected over the year waiting for the climb.  Oh yes, I am looking forward to that special day that will open my close circle.

 This Christmas run will open the eyes of my children too with a true understanding, and at the same time, open my eyes by bringing joy to the less fortunate that I am about to visit with.

 I came back tonight as my last run, knowing I did not lose, as you may think I had, but gained what means the most at Christmas.  Merry Christmas to all new conductors, and take my advice, don't forget about yourself by blindly putting all your gifts that you thought were important on your train. The gift of love and understanding of life are the most important. Teach your children as you are learning yourself that the life circle of family, whom or where they may be with, will never leave, even if you are halfway around the world or just finding time to grow your own family. Give this gift, help them appreciate what’s around them, and give love before anything else; material things are just that material, but family love is real and forever. Tell them to ride the train but allow the meaningful gifts to arrive under the tree while allowing other passengers who are less fortunate a chance to benefit the same.

After all, it's Christmas.

May you find your Christmas spirit this year,

Dianne Pennell