Remembering Christmas: Recalling a Person
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Santa Rosa, Calif., home of Books & Such’s main office
Even though yesterday was the official celebration of Christ’s birth, Christmas memories still flow for most of us, as we spend time with family and friends in this final week of the year. It’s a natural time to recall the special people in our lives who have loved us well. This week each Books & Such staff person will post about someone who comes to mind for her during this season.
For me, I think about my godparents, Henry and Leona Held. But especially my godmother. She was one of my mother’s older sisters (in a family with six daughters and three sons). As was probably common among large families, the older girls ended up pretty much raising the younger chicks. My mother, one of the last children born into the family, considered Leona to be her surrogate mom.
So my brother was named Leon in Leona’s honor, and I was her godchild. I adored Aunt Leona, whom I always called Aunt Onie because, as a toddler, I couldn’t make it through the thick hedge of a name like Leona. But “Onie” slipped easily out of my little pink lips.
Aunt Onie had aquamarine eyes, and they often were lit up by her gleeful outlook on life. She had a great sense of humor, loved to tell stories on herself, and even tried to figure out my hula hoop (during the era of that fad)–something no other adult in my life would attempt. I adored her.
And she must have adored me, for I remember one day, as we jumped into the car to head off for an adventure, she told me she prayed for me everyday. At that point I was a gangling teenager, and I couldn’t imagine that Aunt Onie would know what to pray for me, but I was pleased by the attention.
I received plenty of attention from Uncle Henry and Aunt Leona. Every Christmas Eve, after the church service, they joined our family for the Great Present Unwrapping Event. And Aunt Onie usually eased down onto the floor with me to assist with playing with my new toys. As a result, Christmas always holds a glimmer of Aunt Leona for me.
We all have fatal flaws, but Aunt Onie’s was a physical one. As a child, she had rheumatic fever, from which she almost died. Even though she survived, her heart was permanently and badly damaged. Undaunted by such a fact–or perhaps because of it–she lived every day wholeheartedly. She dared to give birth to one child, a son, whom she lavished with attention, knowing she should never throw caution to the wind and have more children.
When I was sixteen, Aunt Onie died after an experimental surgery to fix her heart failed. I was devastated.
At eighteen, I found Jesus. All kinds of lights went on for me about who I was, where I fit into the scheme of things, and even what one of Aunt Onie’s prayers had been: That I would see the light and come to Jesus. Thank you, Aunt Onie, for all you gave to me in the few years I had the privilege of being loved by you and for the sweet Christmas memories.
I love the thought that her kind heart led her to take her role as godmother seriously and that she is in many ways my spiritual mother, just as she was my mom’s surrogate mother.