What are your Yule/Christmas traditions? What things must you do every year in order for it to feel like the holidays to you? Setting up the tree is certainly a big deal to most who celebrate the holiday. Some go all out & decorate their entire house from top to bottom (my mother-in-law does this every year, which always drives my father-in-law crazy).
I have a Christmas tradition that has been in place and occurring every year since 1976 when I was 14 years old. That was the year I had discovered the music of The Beatles for myself and became a fan. That year my best friend gave me the album, “Yellow Submarine,” for Christmas. That’s how it started.
Every year since then someone whom I least suspect always gets me a gift that is either something about the Beatles or about Paul McCartney, my favorite Beatle and all-time favorite singer. One year I didn’t think I would get anything and the tradition would be broken. This was back in 1994. Then a neighbor came by and was honest, saying he had received something he didn’t like, but knew I’d love it. He was nice and had re-wrapped it for me in new Christmas paper. I opened it and there it was, a Paul McCartney coffee mug! My neighbor had single handedly saved what was back then an 18 year tradition.
Over the years I have received Beatles calendars, date books, t-shirts, DVDs, and so on. Last year my recently ex-sister-in-law gave me a Beatles tote bag, thus keeping the tradition alive another year without any breaks.
For the last two years I have been missing my parents terribly at the holidays. Mom died in January, 2008 and Dad went in September, 2009. This year will be my third without Dad and my fourth without Mom. As an only child who had a wonderful relationship with each of my parents this is something I deeply struggle with each important holiday, birthday, and anniversary. My parents, especially Mom, always supported me in my artwork. She used to tell me one day we would see my art in print or in a gallery. She was firmly convinced and I believed her. Unfortunately, neither of my parents lived to see that moment.
A few months ago I participated in a group project focusing on the creation of a Lenormand card deck. I contributed two cards to the deck that is now known as Le Petit Lenormand Eclectique. The other day the ten decks I ordered finally arrived in the mail. I was so happy to see my two contributions, The Stars and The Fish cards, and there was my artwork reduced to the size of a bridge card, yet all the details were easily visible and vibrant. For me it was an incredibly proud moment. However, I then began thinking about my parents and wishing they were alive to see these cards. I admit that I got all weepy, but I allowed the sadness to pass and realized that they are with me. They have never left and that were as proud and as pleased as I was with how this group project had turned out and my contributions to it.
I had received two packages that day, but knowing what was in the first one, I tore into it first to see the card decks. I looked over every single card of each of the ten decks and the accompanying bag and booklet of Lenormand history and card interpretations. After playing with the deck a good two hours or so I finally opened the second package.
There was no return address, but the zip code told me it was probably from one of my clients named Anna who lives in Hollywood, California. Sure enough, it was. The box contained a tin of mini brownie treats and there was some charcoal gray cloth next to the tin all rolled up. I pulled it out to discover a t-shirt, but it wasn’t just any t-shirt. On the t-shirt was a picture of The Beatles taken during a performance at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, England. I was so happy that the tradition had been kept alive, and once again, by a person I least suspected to get me anything, never mind anything related to the Beatles.
However, that t-shirt is even more special, not because of the picture, but because of the caption. The date on which that performance occurred, according to the t-shirt, is August 3, 1963. When I saw that I totally lost it. I sobbed for over five minutes, probably closer to ten as I hugged that shirt and doubled over with shock, amazement, and grief.
1963 is my birth year. But what’s much more amazing is that August 3rd was my dad’s birthday. He always said years before he got sick that he would give me signs to show me after he was dead that he was still with me. Considering I had been missing him and Mom so much looking at my first artwork in print I knew that for Anna’s gifts to arrive the same day as the card decks was no coincidence. Somehow Dad and the angels had arranged for this to happen and in exactly this manner. Birthdays were always so important to Dad. He would take a week off from work the week of his birthday and the week of my birthday so we could celebrate all week long. Birthdays to Dad were bigger than Christmas and all the other holidays combined. Plus, Dad knew how much I love The Beatles.
Coincidence, many of you may say, however coincidences are one of the very few things I do not believe in because in my world everything happens for a reason, even horrible things. The t-shirt arrived the same day as those decks to show me that my parents know, that they are still with me, and they are proud of all I have accomplished. Of that I have no doubt.
I will always love and miss you, Mom and Dad, until we meet again.