If there is one Christmas album that I remember from my childhood, it’s Kenny and Dolly. I know all the words to “Christmas to Remember” and “Christmas Without You.” Someone pulled out the CD and played it on Christmas Eve this year. Konnie, Mom and I sat on the couch singing “Hard Candy Christmas” at the top of our lungs. Mama looked at us at one point and asked, “What does that even mean? A hard candy Christmas?” We didn’t know. We just kept singing and laughing.
The next day, Mama would get in the car for the long drive to see Grandma Shelby.
When I got home, I finally looked up that phrase. Whatever it meant. I’m not sure how reliable my sources are, but some seem to suggest that a hard candy Christmas was when money was tight and times were hard that all folks could afford to give their kids for Christmas was hard candy. My sources date this to the late 1800’s through World War I and the Great Depression. It makes sense to me, true or not.
I know a lot of folks today who, while they can afford more than just hard candy, still feel that perhaps the past few years have truly been a hard candy Christmas.
It was the day after Christmas and Dad had made some cookie dough on Christmas Eve that we hadn’t cut out and baked before he and Mama rushed off to see Grandma Shelby. I rolled out the dough and snapped a picture to text to him. As the oven pre-heated, my brother, sister and brother in-law all migrated to the kitchen to take part in the cookie decorating and eating. And then my phone rang.
It was Dad. He called to tell us Grandma Shelby had passed away.
We knew she was no longer in pain. Finally free of the cancer she was diagnosed with in August. We hugged each other there in the kitchen. And we finished those cookies. We’ll say goodbye next weekend. But I wanted to thank you all for your prayers for Grandma Shelby. Your love and kind words meant so much to me, and to her.
Maybe a hard candy Christmas is a phrase for more than just the money strapped. Maybe it’s a phrase for those who’re missing a loved one over the holidays. I’m sure that come next Christmas, my voice will crack when I sing that song and think about what we didn’t know yet on Christmas Eve 2012. But I’ll also think about all the people who prayed and cared for Grandma Shelby and loved her through her cancer.
(You can read more about our incredible Grandma's life here.)