Sixty-nine years ago in 1942, these American soldiers in the South Pacific were celebrating a makeshift Christmas, with a "tree" decorated with bits of surgical cotton and cigarette cartons.
About that same time, my father would have been on a ship, also somewhere in the South Pacific. He rarely spoke about his service in WWII, but I wonder if he and his shipmates would have tried to do something similar for their own Christmas celebration away from home. (My mom once pointed ut to me that, since my dad's shipboard duty was running water purification systems that involved fire and steam and long pieces of pipe and tubing, he very likely knew how to make moonshine. Not that he ever made any for us kids, to be sure....)
I don't know if any of the soldiers in the photo above died in WWII. I know that my father saw combat, and saw shipmates die. (He never talked about it. Never. But among his military mementoes were some photos of ships he had served on, and that were sunk in combat.)
Thirty-eight years later, my father would die on Christmas Day 1980. That was not a good Christmas.
Shift to today, a family get together at a cousin's. My mom and brothers, assorted cousins, with spouses and children and grandchildren.
This was a good occasion, for the most part, but with an underlying bit of melancholy for me. Seeing my family reminds me just how old we're all getting. My brothers are all grey- or white-haired now. My mother seems thinner and more frail every time I see her. And the reason why so many more than usual of the relations got together this year was because the cousin who was hosting the party had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor several months ago. (She's had surgery, and is undergoing chemo, and actually looks pretty good, considering. But still, the chance that she'll be around for next year's Christmas is a lot less than it seemed four months ago.
I don't like this getting old. It kinda sucks.
But then again, the youngest person there was a grand-niece, an oh-so-cute toddler with a head of curly hair so flamingly red it would make the entire Weasley clan gnash their teeth in envy. Someone with a long life still ahead of her. Someone to feel positive about.
Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Future. Dickens got it right.