Christmas Kodachromes

AS MY Christmas Day memories span miles and years it seems as if a series of Kodachrome pictures glow brightly on the screen of my mind. They start, of course, with my childhood in the depression years, with Mum and me just the two of us. I see myself seated on my kitchen chair by the potbellied corner stove, eating away at tasty new potatoes boiled with mint, shiny green peas, asparagus, and stuffed tomatoes, all from my mother's garden. . .

AS MY Christmas Day memories span miles and years it seems as if a series of Kodachrome pictures glow brightly on the screen of my mind. They start, of course, with my childhood in the depression years, with Mum and me just the two of us. I see myself seated on my kitchen chair by the potbellied corner stove, eating away at tasty new potatoes boiled with mint, shiny green peas, asparagus, and stuffed tomatoes, all from my mother's garden. Her face is flushed with pleasure, for she has dug and hoed, weeded and watered, for many hours to produce vegetables for Christmas for ourselves and to share with others. The local Maori people many of whom she brought to our home when they were in need knew her as "The Kind One" who possessed the Maori spirit of Aroha— unselfish love and concern for others.

The first Kodachrome merges into the second, and now I am gazing at the black celluloid doll that I received early that same Christmas morning. She shares my chair at the dining table, for I love her already and call her Sally. She wears a green gingham dress and bonnet; she is beautiful. So is my mother, who returns now from the scullery, where she served Christmas plum pudding. Now she sits beneath a silver motto that reads: "Christ is the head of this house. The unseen guest at every meal. The silent listener to every conversation." We were Methodists in those days, but with Love at the head of our home, one day we would become Seventh-day Adventists. For Him.

The scene changes. Whatever is this? Baby clothes and diapers waving in a breeze, and a young adult version of my self at the washing line. Is this the way to spend Christmas? "But I have to," I remind myself, "for tomorrow we sail for New Zealand to show my mother our new baby daughter that precious little granddaughter who chose to make her birth date the same as her grandmother's birthday. So I am washing, and washing no disposable diapers in those days so that we will be ready and packed to leave next morning. Then John, my young minister husband, comes and stands beside me. He does not need to tell me he is ill, for I see it stamped over his face. A rush trip to the doctor follows, and shots for an injury that John suffered recently when pitching tents for camp meeting. The mam moth tetanus shot leaves him clammy and unconscious. We are deeply thankful for the care and concern of the Adventist doctor who attends us despite the "Closed" sign on his surgery door. "No trouble," he smiles, as he misses his meal.

Christmas memories how the years fly by! Now we have four children about us, two of them Australian born, and two of them New Zealanders, and all six of us are on furlough from our mission appointment in India. Once again we are migrating home to see Grandma. The bus in which we are traveling has stopped for an hour at midday beside a railway station. "Rest-rooms in there. Cafe open across the road," our driver has informed us. We eat little, and spend most of the time walking up and down the bleak and deserted railway station. "What a way to spend Christmas," I comment, but it does not really matter. We are going home. By nightfall there will be a Christmas tree and, better still, a warm and loving welcome.

Back in India, some years later, it is Christmas again. Around a laden and colorful dining table in the second-floor apartment seventeen people are seated. Four other missionary families have joined with the seven of us for the Trims now number seven, and two-month- old baby David lies in my arms. Beyond the maroon-and-white curtains of our dining room lie the wails of a beg gar and the squalor of a city that scarcely knows Christ. After our time of fellow ship and friendship we can turn with soaring spirits to that needy world out side.

The next picture, again in the Bombay apartment, is a contrast to the preceding festive one. Windows are bare, and packing cases lie about the bare floor. It is Christmas Day again. "Joy to the world, the Lord is come" but we are sad. In a few days we will leave on permanent return. Suddenly the telephone rings, and we discover that Elder Wood, of the Review and Herald, waits, with his wife, at the Bombay airport. Air strikes have disrupted their anticipated schedule, and they are already in the terminal building. We rush out to meet them. What will they be like? Fancy having to entertain amid our mess of packing! But all my worries vanish as we get acquainted. They are not long from New Guinea; they know something of mission-field life; their hearts are warm! A carol echoes through my mind as I pack their Christmas dinner sack lunches to eat on the train ride from Bombay to Poona. (I'm glad I have some fruitcake to tuck in with the sandwiches and fruit.)

Then we drive them through the noisy city streets, jamming on brakes to avoid pedestrians who meander across the road, dodging red-horned oxen, and shouting through the din to make conversation. Too soon we experience that feeling that goes with Good-by, as our guests settle in a dingy and confined train compartment to continue their journey. Again we have known that special warmth of Adventist fellowship that togetherness that Adventist workers experience.

My pictures are coming to an end. This last one is especially beautiful to remember. It is Christmas, 1974, and all my children, with others, are about our lounge room. It is Christmas Eve, and although the Australian summer evening is still golden outside, we have drawn the blinds and sit smiling in the candlelight together. Then we sing, each of us choosing a favorite Christmas song. "Silent Night, Holy Night" is young David's choice. "O Little Town of Bethlehem," requests my husband. "We Three Kings of Orient," someone else asks. For myself I choose "Joy to the World." For that is what Christmas is all about. That is what made my mother beautiful; made that doctor kind and his wife longsuffering; made rich fellowship within Christian family and among fellow Adventist workers. For Love came down at Christmas! Joy to the world, good will toward men! Because of Love.

Because of Him I want, most of all, to present to my children at Christmas and every day, the gift of love, wrapped in sincerity and tied with unselfishness. Love from the Source of love! That is what I want to give at Sabbath school, at church, and to the community. As I do this, and as other Christians do likewise, we all will be making Kodachrome memories that will one day merge into the rainbow colors of heaven.

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December 1975

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