A Very Short Christmas ‘To Do’ List – 2011

It will come as a shock to no one that cancer isn’t something you put on your “LIST OF THINGS TO DO TODAY”.
– Erma Bombeck, Chapter 13, I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to go to Boise – Children Surviving Cancer-

Early December, 1992. The diagnosis was acute lym­phoblastic leukemia. Our youngest child, a teenager who had been feeling ill for only a few weeks, was suddenly a cancer patient.

My Christmas “To Do” list was pretty short that year – put up our Christmas Tree at home and a little tree at the hospital. I suppose I cooked a turkey on Christmas Day, but I don’t really remember. I wrote my annual Christmas Letter, but it was very short. It started out with, “Then, life took one of those turns that you never really expect…”

Christmas happened anyhow. The rest of the family stepped in and upheld the traditions they felt were important. Friends and family visited and brought baking (which was a special treat because it is well known that I only know how to make two kinds of cookies.)

I only remember shopping for one gift that year. Our very sick child wanted me to get a tie for her dad. Not just any tie – a tie that would make him smile every time he knotted it around his neck. That was a big order, because The Car Guy felt that ties were really just a fancy type of noose, and he detested them… Fortunately, the Disney Company came to my rescue with a festive little number full of holiday cheer!

Much has changed since the Christmas of 1992. All our kids, including our sick teenager, grew up and married. Grand children were born (though not to our Cancer patient, unfortunately). But one thing has stayed the same – my ‘To Do’ list is very short. I decorate, I listen to carols. I feed the gang dinner on Boxing Day. I don’t bake. My gift giving list is pared to the bone, because to be honest, most of the people we know have just about everything they could possibly need!

Christmas, for us, is about peace and goodwill, visiting friends and family, laughing and crying because it is the month of December. Christmas is a feeling, not a present, and that is just part of what makes it priceless…

An adult friend asked Christina what she would like for her eighth birthday. The small child, diagnosed with neuroblastoma, rubbed her hand over her bald head, then rested her face in her hands and said, “I don’t know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything.  (Christina, age 12, Alpena, Michigan)
– Erma Bombeck, Chapter 2, I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to go to Boise – Children Surviving Cancer –

While I am thankful to the medical community for the successful treatment of our child, it is Erma Bombeck who was my guide through the months of treatment. Everyone should buy and read her book about Children Surviving Cancer. (The proceeds from the sale of this book go to various Cancer Societies.) Only Erma could write Cancer Stories that  make you smile…

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22 comments

  1. Hi,
    I agree Christmas means a lot more than just presents. I enjoy the getting together with friends and family at the many party’s, bar-b-ques etc. seeing everyone together great company, great conversations.

    I didn’t know about your daughter, I’m so glad everything worked out. I have had friends with cancer, and you feel so helpless. It truly is very sad when children are so sick.

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    • Hi Mags – It is fun to hear you talk about bar-b-ques at Christmas. Here in the frozen north, the bar-b-que won’t see a lot of action until the snow melts!
      Thanks for your message of concern, and for being such a frequent visitor to The Red House. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Mags.

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  2. Well said. I can’t agree more that “Most of the people we know have just about everything they could possibly need!” My to-do list is short, and I don’t have a shopping list…

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  3. Glad to hear everything turned out well for your family. I agree that Christmas is taking a simpler tone…and it is so much nicer. Have a Merry Christmas!

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    • Hi JSD – Christmas is sort of like a renovation project – it always takes twice as much time and costs twice as much as planned. Using that yardstick, it is easy to see how the holiday can get overwhelming, because unlike renos, Christmas has an exact deadline!
      Merry Christmas to you too!

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  4. It’s a blessing your daughter is doing so well. I can’t imagine the heartache and sadness of going through something like that. I love the cheerful hopeful spirit your daughter had in sending you out to by that happy tie. What a bittersweet smile it must give you all each year.
    Many years ago we trimmed our Christmas back to the minimal too. Our simple celebration is always a treasure to our hearts.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family. 🙂

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  5. Very glad your child survived. The only time I had a long to do list forChristmas were the years when I hosted a big family dinner. I’m eldest of 6..so family is over 20 people.

    Now it’s quieter since I’m far from family but at least life is simply nice with my partner.

    Christmas greetings for you in my latest blog posting! Enjoyy those special times!

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    • Hi Jean – We lived far away from our family for a number of years and a few of those years we didn’t go home for Christmas. We thought we would have a quiet holiday, but discovered there were lots of people just like us in our overseas location! We would get together with those folks for a big Christmas dinner and it was quite enlightening to compare the traditions of all the different ethnic groups!

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  6. I love this blog story. As of yesterday I went on “island time” to slow down and appreciate the season. This year I am doing old traditional things I was raised with less about the shopping and excess. I can honestly say this is the best Christmas in years.
    Thanks for the Happy Ending.

    My my house to yours…..Merry Christmas and most blessed Happy New Year….

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