Christmas Nice

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is around the corner, a fact that is surprising to lots of folks. We blinked our eyes and a whole year passed. I never mind too much because this time brings out the best in people, me included.

Is it my imagination or do kids get just a little sweeter around Christmas? I stopped by the library to take a picture of children creating items at craft tables. When I exited the car, a little girl with dirty blonde and a pink outfit was standing on the sidewalk as she waited for her mom. I took two steps by her and she said, “Hi.” Her voice must be close to that of an angel. I turned, smiled, and returned the greeting, all the while feeling the warm fires of the season glowing.

Grandson Madden is just a bit sweeter at this time of year. He’s talking constantly, just as his mother and grandfather have done all their lives. The boy is at that point in life where he looks at folks in their eyes as he speaks. These days, what also come with that look are buckets filled with sweetness. The boy even garnered enough courage to climb is the round, red-suited man’s lap and tell him what he wanted for Christmas.

The retails sales forces are especially nice the last shopping days. Selling products might insure their jobs for the next year, something that is important during such tempestuous times. They are more willing to help customers and give the time and attention that ring up sales.

Many customers are in a much kinder mood as well. They don’t mind so much standing in a checkout line of a department store. Smiles and warm wishes are passed out to strangers who would normally receive a cold shoulder and laser stare. On some occasions, an individual might allow an elderly individual with only a couple of items to cut line and check out in front. We shoppers aren’t so worried about money or bills or our lives circling the bowl before they go down the hole. For just a little while, we enjoy each day and find some good in others who shop and sell. Of course, when the bills come in January mail, those once happy moods will melt like winter’s snow in the rain.

Christmas certainly brings out the better person in me. I find that patience, which is usually in short supply in my life, is more plentiful. That means I can stand in line a little longer to wait my turn. Finding a parking space in a mall lot isn’t easy, but I just shake my head, laugh, and drive to the outer reaches of the county where I can park my car and then walk ten minutes to the front entrance.

Where my Christmas spirit is most evident is on the Interstate. I drove to Nashville recently, and during the whole trip, close to two-hundred miles, I never once cursed another driver nor did I flip any other motorist off. I drove the speed limit during the trip unless I was caught in the passing lane and needed to step on it to get out of the way of others behind me. When the coast was clear, I moved to the right lane and graciously allowed speeders to zip by me.

Christmas season makes us want to be nicer; maybe it’s because for at least a few weeks we remember what miraculous thing happened on that date. What is unfortunate is that most of us will go back to our former obnoxious, intolerant selves after Christmas is passed but still in the rear view mirrors. We could use work on keeping the nice side showing a little longer. Doing so takes lots of practice and awareness. Maybe I’ll try harder. It couldn’t hurt.

I Miss My Wedding Ring

Today is special for Amy and me. It’s our 36th wedding anniversary. Yep, I wonder too why she’s stayed with me all these years; she surely married way beneath herself, and she’s too pretty to have married a frog like me. Anyhow, we’ve been married a long time. I’m glad my wife is with me. I looked at the a bare digit on my left hand the other day and realized that I miss my wedding ring.

My first ring took a beating. It never came off my finger. I wore it to mow the yard, split wood, and dig holes. Even when Dallas and Lacey practiced ball in the yard or on a field, I hit grounders and threw batting practice with that ring on my finger. Over the years, the rough treatment put nicks and scratches on the ring.

Amy bought me another wedding ring for Christmas one year. She took the old one and had the jeweler to melt it and then make a piece of jewelry for herself. The new ring was much more comfortable. It had rounded edges that kept the ring from digging into the flesh of my finger and hand. By the time I got that ring, I was accustomed to wearing a ring, and when I took it off for any reason, my finger was naked. Something about not having that ring on felt strange and out of place.

Like the first ring, I wore the new one at all times. It too had a few scratches on it, but no nicks had been cut into the ring. By then I’d learned to wear gloves to prevent too much abuse to it.

A few years ago, the joints in my ring finger began to lock. The problem worsened until I had to use my right hand to straighten the finger when I grasped something. Before long, my finger began to swell, and my ring began to squeeze the circulation from it. With a wheel barrow of regret, I removed my wedding ring and placed in a jewelry box. A couple of weeks ago, I retrieved it and handed it to Amy. I told her to take it somewhere and trade it in for a piece she liked.

I miss that ring. After so many years, it felt natural. Sometimes I’d turn it on my finger as I contemplated something of importance. And yes, it was a true symbol of a marriage that’s survived the test of time. Each of those scratches and nicks in the first ring were symbols of the sometimes rocky road Amy and I traveled. It’s true that a couple needs at least five years of work to smooth the wrinkles from a marriage. Most of the time it was I who “screwed up,” but Amy was patient enough until I got things right.

The second ring was a symbol as well. Its edges were rounded and that made the ring more comfortable on the finger. The years wore away the rough edges of our marriage as well. We’ve learned lessons about living together. I am still working on patience, and Amy still works on tolerance (of me). What we both agree on is that we love each other more now than we did on that December 20th evening in Cookeville when we exchanged vows. It’s also a deeper, more profound love than in our youth.

So, I’ll be naked-fingered when we celebrate this year’s anniversary, but maybe by the next anniversary I’ll have a third ring. Surgery fixed the problems I had with my finger, so a new one might slip on as comfortably as the other two. It’s for sure that another ring will have its share of symbolism. Even if I don’t have a ring, I’ll still have my bride. For that I am most grateful.