gold, frankincense and myrrh with a 21st century twist


I’m a basic Bah, Humbug Christmas person and have been for years.   I’m not clinically depressed during the holiday season, but neither am I joyful.  I resist the pressure to shop ‘til I drop, but that isn’t limited to a particular time of the year, either.  I’m considering the possibility I may suffer from borderline Scrooge disorder or at a minimum, Holiday Harrumphs.

This year is different.   I’ve been jolted and shaken out of my cynicism and once again believe in the magic that is Christmas.  I think my transformation actually began last year when my new neighbors in Texas on Worsham Street decorated their homes and yards with spectacular exterior holiday lighting.  They adorned trees, bushes, windows, doors, porches, benches, roofs – anything they could find to attach a string of lights – and the little street came alive with white icicle lights and plain white lights and multi-colored lights of all shapes and sizes that glowed and blinked and gave the appearance of a miniature Disneyland.  I absolutely loved them and of course, I had to participate with my own lights on our house on the street.  I felt my Christmas ice melt just a little each time I turned the switch that lit my bright lights.  This year the street is again beautiful, and I thank my neighbors for the inspiration of their lighting traditions.

I miss my family at Christmas, the family that defined Christmas for me as a child.  That family is gone as that time and place are gone, but the child inside me mourns their loss every time I hear “Silent Night” and other carols sung during this time of the year.  We were musical people and much of our holiday revolved around music in our Southern Baptist churches where my mother was always responsible for the Christmas Cantata.  Sometimes she played the piano for it so my dad could lead the church choir and sometimes she drafted another pianist so she could lead the choir herself.  Regardless, music was the reason for the season for us and we celebrated the season in church.

Family has been re-defined in my adult life by my wife and four children in furry suits that I adore.  I have a son who now has a girlfriend he lives with and so our family grows together.  Through the past forty years I’ve been away from Texas I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful friends who have become closer than the DNA-linked group I left behind.  In my gay and lesbian community in South Carolina, the term “family” is a word we use to describe ourselves.  The question, “Do you think she’s family?” is translated, “Do you think she’s a lesbian like us?”  Being part of a marginalized sub-culture creates strong bonds within that environment and my friends have been simply the best.

Coming home to Texas to live has connected me once again with my DNA family and that’s been an incredible experience and part of the magic of Christmas for me the last two years. First cousins, second cousins, third cousins once removed and the people they’ve married and their children are good, and a few questionable, surprises for me.  Gathering for a cousins’ Christmas potluck luncheon or going with cousins to the Montgomery Annual Cookie Walk or having cousins come to our home or visiting in their homes rekindle good memories of the times when our hair wasn’t white and our figures were slimmer and the great-grandparents at the table weren’t us. I see these relatives and I am a part of them, and I feel good to belong to them at Christmas. Our conversations honor and celebrate our heritage and the ones who are no longer with us.  We laugh and cry together because we are moved by our memories. My family is a Christmas gift.

But just as the familiar story goes of the Wise Men who followed a bright light to Bethlehem and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby boy in the manger, Wise Women in my life have brought gifts that rocked my Christmas complacency. My wife surprised me with an early gift at Thanksgiving when I went home to her in South Carolina.  It’s worth its weight in gold to me.  It’s a western saddle made of leather and rides a wooden quilt holder that a Worsham Street neighbor gave me when she saw the saddle.  It’s a perfect combination and looks good in my Texas den underneath a picture of a cowboy sitting on a fence.  Whenever I look at the saddle, I think of two of my favorite things: my wife who knew me well enough to buy this treasure for me and my days of riding horses as a child. I feel the love of the giver of this perfect gift.

Frankincense was used in ancient times for medicinal and calming purposes including treatment for depression.  Burning frankincense was also thought to carry prayers to heaven by people in those days.  One of the Wise Women in my life gave me my own version of frankincense last week when she bought a plane ticket to South Carolina for me to be with my wife for Christmas.  I marvel at this generosity from a friend who surely loves me and who chased away the potential Christmas blues. This gift came from prayers to heaven that were unasked but answered on the wings of a snow white dove called US Airways and the spirit that is the magic of Christmas in the heart of my friend.

Myrrh is an Arabic word for bitter and it is the resin that comes from a tree that grows in the semi-desert regions of Africa and the Red Sea.  The Chinese used it for centuries to treat wounds and bruises and bleeding.  The Egyptians used myrrh as an embalming oil for their mummies.  Yesterday I received another gift that reminded me of myrrh – not the bitterness nor the embalming properties – but the unexpected present was a live blooming cactus plant that arrived at my house via a congenial UPS driver who I believe thinks he is Santa Claus.  When I opened the box and removed the moss packing per the enclosed instructions, I was stunned by the beauty of the pink blooms and the deep rich green of the plant.  The gift came from another Wise Woman who is married to my cousin in Rosenberg, Texas and was an additional reminder of the magic that lives in Christmas.  Every day I’ll see these blooms and think of my cousins who sent them and the healing power beauty affords us when we take a moment to consider it.  I’ve always loved a Christmas cactus.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh with a 21st century twist.  The Christmas story of Mary and Joseph’s plight in the manger in Bethlehem has been told and re-told for thousands of years.  Regardless of your belief, it is a tender tale of a family who welcomes a baby boy into a world of conflict and hardship and hopes he will somehow change it for the better.   The same conflicts continue two thousand years later and hardships of every shape and description plague our families today, but we move on.  Sometimes forward, sometimes backward.  But onward we go.  And in this spirit of hope for a better world where peace becomes the norm and hardships are made more bearable, I abandon my Bah, Humbug  with a Merry Christmas to all!

Stay tuned.

(Note: this post was published originally in December, 2011)

picking just the right cookies at the Christmas Cookie Walk

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is an essayist with humorist tendencies who periodically indulges her desires to write outside her genre by trying to write fiction and poetry. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike and Charly. Her Texas roots are never far from her thoughts.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to gold, frankincense and myrrh with a 21st century twist

  1. rebroxanna says:

    Beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wayside Artist says:

    Last night I played “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen over and over. (I love grand choral music.) “Oh, Great Mystery,” that animals were first to witness the Holy Birth. Oh, that mysterious, unknowable Divinity.
    I’ve turned away from my Roman Catholic roots, but that Christmas Story, that Baby in the manger, is always a source of hope each year – the annual rebirth of life and sunlight and hope.
    From my tiny family to yours – Buon Natale!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also love grand choral music and have played Handel’s Messiah for the past two days. London Philharmonic and Chorus. Pretty is over it.
      The Christmas is always a source of hope for each year for all of our families – tiny or large.
      We celebrate with you today!

      Like

  3. Merry Christmas, Sheila! I picked the Christmas tree this year for the first time. It was special. Santa cannot come without it and Santa came. Warmest wishes and lots of love!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I struggled with Bah humbug this year. My parents used to make Christmas magical, even when I was a young adult. I’m finding it difficult to recapture that magic since they are both gone. Maybe next year…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Luanne says:

    Oh, what a lovely post, Sheila! And the saddle! Wow, T did a great job! I’m so glad you have enjoyed the Christmas season this year. Isn’t it funny how a lot of artificial lights can stir our hearts? Hah, most years we go to see the house with ALL the lights and decorations with our kids and didn’t (couldn’t go with them) this year and really missed it.

    Liked by 1 person

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