Nyle and I had been married for four and a half months on that first Christmas. Somehow I think that I expected that we would spend that very first one with my family. We had never discussed this idea...again I assumed. I mean, after all, his family were spread out quite a bit across the country.
Nyle had spent almost three Christmases by himself before we met, fell in love, and married. Those holidays that he spent alone were very sad days for him. One Christmas he was recovering from emergency colon surgery. The next one he was recovering from major knee surgery. His family were all living away from where he lived.
When I finally voiced my expectation about being with my family just a few days before Christmas he told me that now WE were a family. He wanted us to start, right away, to begin our own family Christmas Traditions. I don't know how many actual traditions we started that Christmas. We did, however, begin our own family. It was incredibly joyous for both of us when we discovered a few weeks before Christmas that our very first child was preparing to join us.
I bought an ornament, that 30 years later looks a bit grimy, that says "Our First Christmas." It still brings back the same tingles that I felt just looking at my handsome hubby during that wonderful time. I'm certain that we must have done some fun Christmasey things. All that I remember is feeling that I was the most blessed woman alive to marry Nyle Smith! (It goes without saying that he was extremely blessed to marry ME! Hey, I was quite a catch)!
Nyle was absolutely the best gift giver ever. He gave wonderful, thoughtful gifts. One of our last Christmases before he passed away, he gave me several sets of fleece sheets. I did not even know they existed. Flannel sheets yes...fleece sheets, NO! Those sheets were magical. In the icy cold winters of Utah, it was like climbing into a hug! I still treasure those sheets, more so now that he is not here to give me a hug.
He taught me the importance of giving gifts of caring. It was terribly hard for me to find the perfect gift for him. It was ironic, actually that he gave such thoughtful gifts, and I struggled to figure out what he would enjoy. To make things worse, we rarely had much money to spend, and he always had excellent, expensive taste. (That is not to say that I had poor, cheap taste...not then or now. I mean, come on, I married him proving my excellence in taste)! There was the telescope that he just desperately wanted...that I spent three years paying for! Or the time I put a bunch of nice pens as one of his stocking stuffers, and then he teased me about it for years, "Pens, really? That was the best you could come up with?" He never let me forget those pens...ok that's an exaggeration. He let me forget after 25 years or so!
Nyle DID appreciate the gifts that I really spent time on. For example, I knitted him a six foot long, four foot wide Colonial American flag. He loved that gift. On the other hand, he felt odd using a flag to nap under. Flying proudly in the hot summer sun one year, I discovered that he had hung it from our patio. Nobody could miss that mark to our patriotism. I did wonder if they were confused by the fact that it only had thirteen stars on it. Again, I had knit a COLONIAL flag...not the current flag with fifty stars.
The best gift that Nyle gave me, is our two darling daughters. Their presence in my life keeps him alive. He was an amazing Daddy. His wicked sense of humor continues in our daughters. I am a rather intense individual, and can be VERY emotional. They have learned to simply say, "Don't go deep Mom, don't go deep." That is in reference to my intensity of emotion. He used to keep me from taking myself too seriously. Now they do.
These dear daughters insist on helping me with my disability issues. Nyle taught them that sense of love and honor by his example with his own Mother. His Mama was brilliant. She raised five sons, largely by herself. Her husband became an alcoholic during their married life. She tried to hold together their marriage, their family, for years. Finally divorce was the only possible option. Mom had not worked in around 25 years outside of their home.
She was able to gain an entry level job as a secretary/receptionist. The pay was negligible...around $380.00 a month. That was not much even in the 1970's. Within two years she had worked her way into the position of Detective, Consumer Fraud in her state. She was the FIRST female detective in her field in the state. She received many awards, and lots of accolades for her ability to look like a sweet, naive Grandma. The business owners were always shocked when she would come back and shut them DOWN.
Tragically the last five years of Mom's life she developed dementia. It was painful to watch this brilliant, wickedly witty, loving woman, lose herself. Nyle and Mom were the best of friends. He traveled once or twice a month across several states to take her to the doctor, and to the hairdresser. After years of discovering dishonest, or downright evil businesses, and then shutting them down, in her delusions she would not trust anyone unless Nyle was there. Sometimes she didn't trust people, even then.
She called many times and poured out terrible accusations directed at Nyle. It broke his heart. Yet, in spite of the false ideations she sometimes had about him, he still gave as much, and as loving, of care as he could possibly provide. I know that his example of love, honor, and duty towards his Mother made a firm impression on our girls.
You might ask, "How did these ideas about your adult girls, and Nyle and his Mom have anything to do with your first Christmas together?" My answer is, "Very little. Hey, how much sleep have you been able to get this holiday week? Me too." So forgive my tangent. It may be off topic, but interesting don't you think? Back to the subject.
Nyle made me promise that I would never send out a basic, newsy, Christmas letter. He always wrote very funny ones. He wanted me to continue the tradition. He actually made me vow (although I did NOT put my hand on any book, Bible or otherwise), I do NOT have his sense of humor. To give you an example of my sense of humor. Remember when you're sitting in a darkened movie theater watching a movie and some odd lady laughs really hard when everyone else is completely silent? Yes, sirree, that's me! Since I can't write zany letters, I will probably not write Christmas letters. However, when you get my New Year's letters, who knows what format they will take?
I wish to you all Happy Holidays, whether you rejoice with Channukah, celebrate Kwanza, sing Merry Christmas or find some other holiday to make you joyful. When you're with those you love, EVERYDAY is a celebration!