This particular fashion accessory was seasonal, but so very important. As a child, I could be certain my Saturday morning would be full of fun and adventure if Daddy were wearing his baseball hat. His usual driver’s cap indicated he was heading to work, but when he had on his baseball hat, well, there was just no telling where the day may take us! (High above the chimney tops, for sure.)
In the story I am telling, it is important that you know this was not just any baseball hat. Stamped on the front in large block lettering was the phrase, “America’s Best Dad,” with a patriotic themed border. If my memory serves me correctly, my brother and I pooled our funds at the Santa Shop our elementary school hosted to purchase the hat for dad one year. It was tacky. It was obnoxious. We loved it. We knew it was the perfect gift for our father because he was in fact, “America’s Best Dad.” In true father fashion, this hat quickly became his weekend staple.
But for a few short weeks, he hung up his ‘award winning’ hat, and donned something even better. Another winning purchase from the Concord Elementary school sale. This seasonal accessory was the all important green baseball(more like a trucker) hat with a Santa face embroidered on it. And across the back, it spelled out SANTA. In our house, it was not the trimming of the Christmas tree that marked the beginning of the season(although important), it was really when Daddy buttoned up his corduroy coat, placed his SANTA hat on, and headed out the door on a Saturday morning. The following Sunday morning, as we lit the first Advent candle, we knew the magic of the season had begun.
Birthdays were always a big deal in our home—celebrations of all kind really. It does not take much of an excuse for my family to plan an event surrounded by food and gifts. But, Christmas, oh merry magical Christmas. The weeks leading up to Christmas were always exciting. We decorated the house, my mother hosted wonderful parties, we baked sugar cookies, and we sang. (Dolly Parton’s Christmas was my favorite cassette to put in rotation.) All the while, Dad (aka Santa) was in and out of the house doing his “Santa” duties. Hat on head of course. He had a spring in his step during December and a twinkle in his eye. Especially fun was when I had the opportunity to be part of his ‘Santa missions.’ Whether it was a child, elderly person, or family in need, I do not think one Christmas went by that I do not recall him giving “Christmas” to those in need. (and those are just the ones I know about—being he was a true elf, I have learned since his passing of many more.)
Between the regular Christmas traditions of our household(I always campaigned to light the pink Advent candle on the kitchen table), my father usually had something up his sleeve. One year, I remember being disappointed that we did not have colored lights on our Christmas tree. My mother had the classiest tree, a mix of traditional ornaments, hand crocheted angels, cross stitched pieces, and her children’s homemade artwork. It was beautiful. But I was about eight years old and wanted color. Dad had something in mind. After a Bojangles breakfast date, he said, “Dorothy, honey pot, I am not sure White Jones has what we need today so we are going to Kmart.” I was bit confused because White Jones always had what dad needed.
He pulled several boxes off the top shelf. COLORED LIGHTS. My eyes widened. But these were not regular indoor tree lights. These bulbs were HUGE! (Now, THIS was going to be an adventure.) Dad set the plan in motion. Mom was scheduled to be gone from the house for a few hours. We retrieved the ladder and got to work. Just at my folks’ mailbox is a wooded area. In the winter it is pretty sparse, but there is a giant tree perfect for stringing lights. We finished our project as Dad got the power source and electricity in order.
Then we waited. With excitement and nervous anticipation. The sun set, and mom returned home. Sure her live greenery and classy red bows adorning the house were pretty, but right there in front was the biggest tree filled with huge colored lights!!! I think she almost passed out. We were giddy!!!!! It was amazing. And you know what? My classy Christmas southern Mom kind of loved it too, I think, because that very next Christmas, our living room tree featured colored…blinking…..musical lights!! (It was a brief but fun departure)
Gosh it can be so difficult to anticipate with excitement the Christmas season when life seems raw, ugly and exposed. Traditions that once brought joy now inflict sharp pain and deep sorrow. And as I look outside of my own personal grief, the brokenness, darkness, and injustices of the world we live in are almost paralyzing. Singing, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is not a pretty soft request, but a deep yearning and plea for our Lord to make Peace on this Earth. I want to scream it from the rafters, not sing softly from my pew. I am praying for the shifting and shaping of my heart to remember, with great care, that the true excitement and anticipation is to be rooted in the coming of what is to be the final reconciliation. And that in the meantime, as we anticipate Glory, I want to live intentionally—seeking more colored light buying adventures and being an elf to those in need. As a follower of Christ, I am not called to just live as a Christian seasonally. Everyday is a opportunity to celebrate His coming, His Birth, and the life He gives to you and me. May we EMBRACE IT, LIVE IT, and TELL IT.
(cue: Dolly Parton singing, “Go tell it on the Mountain.”