When people ask, I say I grew up on a crop farm in Buchanan, Michigan. That is true but not the entire story. Truth be told, up until I was 10 years old, we lived in a trailer park on Red Bud Trail Road North in the back row. People didn’t call them “mobile home” parks at that time and truly it would have been too fancy for the place. We were at the farm a lot helping with things on weekends but largely, we were there. There were wonderful neighbors and questionable ones, some were the best of the best and some were pretty scary. In the middle of the park was my true hangout, a huge (seemed like at the time) playground with the tall swings, taller monkey bars (the square steel bar ones), a really high metal slide that mostly gave you butt bruises at the bottom, it was so steep. And free of charge, for no additional money, came plenty of rough and ready children (and I am using the term loosely). And of course, plenty of time for me to practice my boxing skills Daddy taught me because my mom used a huge triangle to ring us when to come home for food and of course rough and ready children think this is a great way thing to tease a child about (once). 🙂 We (my only living sibling, a sister) had bikes, but I was at the playground alone because she never wanted to play. So I would pedal back after I heard the annoying bell and after making sure my pride was intact from the bullies and eat contentedly. Rainy days were hard because my bedroom was small and gloomy because of dark fake wood paneling and one small window. I was every superhero I knew of at some point in that trailer. It was my imagination that saved me from the fate of so many there, some abusive, some abused, most poor, some held down by their own belief that the insults hurled upon them through life were true, but fairly some extraordinary and the most generous souls alive. When Grandpa Batterson died and I was 10 and my Daddy cried for the first time ever, I think, Grandma bought a modular home on the hill of their property and our family moved into the old farmhouse. And that began the best, most hard working childhood I could imagine. From darkness to light the contrast was. From cats only to cats and dogs and guinea pig and fish and hermit crabs because there was plenty of room. All that to say this. When we have lived in a dark place for a long time, the dark looks like it is as light as day, we get used to fighting to get by, we protect ourselves by escaping into our minds, we are always on guard with brief moments of splendor, like when we went to church. But just because your eyes have adjusted to the dark does not make it light. When we move to the light, when God graces us with light, the darkness is revealed and light can start to dispel that darkness in time. We don’t have to be bound to the darkness. I say I am from the farm not from the trailer park. I don’t own that bleak time. I own the light. It is my choice, my decision to change my point of view and focus on what saves and not what crushes. Everyone has that choice in life. Everyone can choose the light.
I grew up in Michigan. So, Christmas happened there for me during my growing up years. Fast forward about thirty some years and we live in Florida, where Christmas happens now. There is a stark contrast between these two places and this is what I see as the biggest differences.
MI: cold, very cold, sometimes snowed, so stoked didn’t
FL: not cold usually at all, pretty much like the other seasons
MI: to keep food cold for get together, wrap it and put it out on the unheated porch, like an extra fridge or freezer
FL: try to cram all food into fridge or freezer because you put it on the porch it will melt or draw bugs
MI: all the family gets together and eats all day, plays games, watches the Macy’s Day Parade, eats more really good food inside
FL: those few family members here get together and go out to eat then spend time outside, maybe even hit the beach or swim
MI: gray skies
FL: blue, sunny skies
MI: scrape off the car and bundle up
FL: flip flops and shorts
MI and FL: lights, presents, Christmas programs or candle light services at church
Both are wonderful and both represent the birth of Christ well. No matter where I am I love Christmas! Happy Christmas, everyone!