Our world is made for two parent families, a dad, a mom and kids along with aunts and uncles who have kids and grandparents who are surrounded by their kids and their grandkids. It's not tooled up to handle single-parent families where there's a mom with kids and no husband or dad.
That was my experience growing up in the near-northern reach of Michigan where the memory of past Christmases is still very clear. It was a time to be happy, at least for a few minutes. But, I found that it never lasted. There was a whole lot of sadness and emptiness.
It might not be too strong to say I hated it when radio stations, the music played over loudspeakers downtown and other places would be Christmas Carols. It wasn't real. It wasn't my reality.
My mom felt the full sting of being left alone to raise a sickly kid during the late forties and she had the entire responsibility to make sure that we had something to eat and a roof over our heads. What part did my aunts and uncles play in helping her? The church? Other people? There are lots of stories that I remember.
What stands out are church and family functions during Christmas. I may not have had this formed thought in my mind as a kid, but I grew to feel that the Savior came first for real families where both parents were present and then if He had time for the rest of us.
Aunts and uncles would quite often invite us over for dinner on Christmas Eve and Day. There were great dinners and lots of laughing and talking. But I never felt connected to the family chain. It could have been the times, but my uncles never seemed to want to connect with me.
As I grew I found a doorway to a connection and this was politics. I became interested in how we as a people governed ourselves through the political process. They were interested in that too. So, at age nine and ten, I could raise questions about President Eisenhower and the U.S. Congress and Republicans and Democrats and unions. There was a connection there for a while and then it would go away for a bit and then come back later.
I was part of one children's Christmas program that I never forgot. I was in first or second grade at Mount Olive in Bay City and I had a piece or a verse to memorize and recite. It was John 3:16. It stuck with me throughout my life and never left. There was one verse that was seared into my memory and that was it.
My views about Christmas have transitioned quite a bit. But now I'm part of a real family. I'm now a grandpa and I'm married. But I see more clearly the hope that the birth of Jesus ignites.