We moved around a lot when I was young, but by the time I was three years old, we’d settled into a little yellow cape cod on a suburban cul-de-sac in New Jersey. My dad commuted over the bridge into the city each day for work. My mom taught piano lessons in our living room and worked herself into the plow position with her girlfriends on the Oriental rug.
In the summer my sister and I climbed trees, rode our bikes, and ran through the sprinklers in the front yard. In the fall I walked to school, on a trail that someone had named the Pony Path. But as soon as the temperature dipped just a bit, my thoughts turned directly to Christmas.
Christmas meant Virginia. And grandparents. And more love than one child could ever hold onto.
Each Christmas, my parents packed up the car and drove us South – below the Mason-Dixon line – to the state where they’d both grown up. After hours of driving, we’d pull up in front of my grandparents’ house, my mom and dad weary from traveling so far. No matter what time of day we arrived, my grandmother would fling open the door and come running to greet us. Her arms spread wide, my grandmother called to us as she ran to the sidewalk to squeeze us tight. Each time I thought my heart would burst wide open from all the love that she poured in it.
I thought surely one day the love would just spill out all over the sidewalk and folks would have to step around it on their way to work on Monday. They’d shake their heads and glance up at the porch there where my grandparents lived. They’d say to one another, “Ida’s children must be home again. Looks as if they brought the grandchildren, too. Just look at all that love piled up here on this sidewalk! More love than one child could ever hold onto!”
Inside, I’d sit at the kitchen table with the chrome legs and Formica top that was flecked with spots of color on a white background. On the stove, a dollop of sweet cream butter melted its way to the bottom of a pan of White House applesauce that burped slow bubbles over a soft blue flame. I’d swing my legs and rest my chin on my hands on the top of that table. I don’t know if we talked or not – or if it was good enough just to be there, sharing space with my grandmother and her love.
On Christmas Eve, she’d tuck me into bed beneath a window that looked out onto the alley in back. I’d wait until she’d kissed my forehead and shut the door behind her, then I’d scramble up onto my knees and press my forehead to the glass, and watch for shooting stars that might streak a path across the night. At first light I’d spring from bed and wake the house with fits of joy, then tumble down the staircase into one more Christmas morn.
It was extravagant.
All day long the love dripped from the ceilings and crammed its way into the corners and spilled out from beneath the tree in circles that were piled up high. And it seeped down into the marrow of my bones and found a home and still, it was far more than one child could hold onto. I tried to catch my breath and wondered at the miracle of love so great as this.
One year, on that trip across the highways to Virginia, we breezed past suburbs and bungalows on cul-de-sacs with tiny, sparkling, colored lights glowing and twinkling and dancing as we passed by. It was late and dark and we’d been riding for awhile in silence. But then, my mother exhaled deep and turned from the glass to face us in the darkness of the car. A band of light reflected across my dad’s eyes as he drove us and he watched my mother as she said, “Do you see all of the beautiful lights? Aren’t they just beautiful?” And I remember nodding and thinking that I especially liked the white lights that hung across the garage door we had just passed by. I remember thinking that the world was filled with wonder.
“You know,” my mother said, “we wouldn’t have all of this if it hadn’t been for Jesus.”
I thought that she just meant the lights. We wouldn’t have the lights if it hadn’t been for Jesus. But what she meant was all of it. The love piled up on the sidewalk while applesauce cooked on the stove. The love shared at the kitchen table and the window that looked out over the alley while stars left streaks across the sky. The kisses on my forehead and the love that dripped down from the ceiling and Light to shine and lead the way.
We wouldn’t have this extravagant Love that reaches for us in the dark and fills up our hearts and seeps into our marrow and makes us press our foreheads to the glass to search for light across the sky.
Thank you for this post. Needed the “love” to start my day. I am too from VA & my daughter has such an amazing relationship with my mother like you described…..what a great image of the love spilling out on to the sidewalk. We will not get to go “home” for Christmas this year but oh, the love you carry until you come face to face once more….His gift! I am going to share this w/ my 10 year old Grace, I know she will be as touched as me! Merry Christmas!
LOVE reading about your childhood Christmases! I grew up overseas and didn’t have that, but we always had lots of “aunts” and “uncles” surrounding and loving on us!
Beautiful. You have a way with words. Thank you for sharing with us. It blessed me this morning.
Ro elliott says
Extravagant love…I love how full your heart was…full of anticipation…isn’t that was love does…and now as a grandmother…this is what I want for my family…grandloves…anticipation that they are coming home to extravagant love…love that flows right out of the heart of God. Thanks Deidra for painting this precious picture!!
What beautiful memories, thank you for painting them in my heart today. I have similar memories of my own childhood, what a glorious day it will be when I will be reunited with my parents and grandparents, all because of that generous gift of love from our Savior.
Merry Christmas to you and your family Deidra!
That heart of yours? All these years later, it’s bursting with so much love, and maybe that’s why you’re always pouring out onto others. There’s simply no room for one heart to contain it all, so you have to let love loose.
I thank God for the extravagant gift of you, Deidra Riggs. Much love to you this Christmas and always.
And may God bless the entire incourage ministry in the coming year. You are broadcasting the Good News into far corners of homes and hearts.
kim Johnston says
Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of your Grandparents. I lost my grandma this last year, but the memories of my grandma and grandpa remain ever so near my heart. I will always remember how she made everything so special and loved me like no other. I feel so blessed to have had her love, influence, and godly character to show me what true love is!!
You are an amazing writer. I loved reading this, with some pain in my heart. My Christmases weren’t anything like this. Growing up I felt no love, I had no love and that was always extra painful in a season where families would come together. But since last year I have my own little family, I got married. And in this season of waiting… I ponder on Christ’s goodness to me. I have always had the hope to one day share life and it is here. I hope to build many good memories in the years to come, that pain subsides to the back and beauty steps in, all because of Jesus.
On a different note I love the reminder of what you wrote. It saddens me that so many celebrate Christmas without celebrating Jesus.
Lynn Morrissey says
Hope, your words really touch and bless me. God is showing me lately that He makes up *extravagantly* for years eaten by locusts. It looks as if He is beautifully doing that for you.
God bless you!
Kelley Mansfield says
This was absolutely beautiful. I want to be a person who loves extravagantly and loves so much that the receiver cannot hold it all. Because you’re right, that’s how Jesus loves us. And what a beautiful example and legacy your grandmother left you of that. It’s inspiring.
Lynn Morrissey says
Deidra, I love this passage from The Message, Eph. 5: “Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant.” Your exquisite Christmas memory points this out in abundance. As beautiful Jennifer says, your heart is bursting at the seams, because you have allowed Christ to fill it with His love. Funny. I was just doing a word-study on *heart* before reading this, and yours is whole and full and malleable–a soft heart of flesh that receives and extends the extravagant love of Christ. What joyful Christmas memories you have, and what a blessed heritage you’ve received from loving parents and grandparents, who acted in love because they knew from Whom it came. Honestly, Deidra, I think this is the most beautiful piece I’ve ever read of yours. How appropriate that it should point to the One who, in His extravagant love, has extravantly gifted you! You are so precious. Merry Chrismtas!
I LOVE the description of a grandmother’s love…dripping, oozing…its a wonderful picture of a child’s mind, the love of a grandmother and the moments that are ingrained in her memory of Christmases past. I pray that my grandchildren find our home- our time together-dripping with love and always directing them to the ONE who made it all possible. Jesus.
What beautiful, special memories God has blessed you with…you will treasure them always. Happy Birthday, Jesus!! And God’s blessings in the new year.
Oh, D. This story is a gift to me this Christmas season. From a little girl who never knew such extravagence, it makes me believe I can be that for future generations. Thank you for the extravagent love you spill out everywhere.
Diane W. Bailey says
Grandmothers, I’m convinced, are a gift from the Father. Though our parents love us, to have a grandmother with that kind of love, is the closest thing to Christ’s love here on earth. I love this story.
I know one day, you will be the same kind of grandmother, and your grandchildren will write about the Christmases you spilled love all over them! Merry Christmas, Dee!
I have been so drawn in by your post. What a beautiful essay on the love of Christmas! Makes my heart burst a little, too.
Joanne Peterson says
Wow! This is just beyond words. I had a grandma on my mother’s side of the family who was like that. Very little money, but lots of love, and me content to hang out with her. She died when I was 4 1/2, but I have very distinct memories and almost snapshots of pictures of her home and the couch where I took naps, what Grandma looked like, and her hands as she prepared food to eat, and had her arm around her grandchildren.
This is so true that we have all of this because of Jesus. The other side of the family held bitterness, anger, envy, strife, hollering….favoritism, comparisons. These people were able to only give what they had. Thankfully, my grandpa received Jesus in the last hours before he died, then he called over my grandma to tell her the news she just had to hear. The last years of her life she had Jesus.
I don’t question the Lord’s timing, but I think how different their life, their love, and their joy could have been if they had Jesus many years before.
Yes, Jesus does make all this love possible.
Thank you! Illustrating God’s extravagant love through the eyes of child being submerged in her Grandmother’s love clarified it all for me. What love, all spilled out and piled up.
What a beautiful memory and perfect example of extravagant love.
Delightful! I hope to splash that kind of love on our grandkiddos! A snapshot of your beautiful heritage.
This post was beautiful! I am a mother to young ones-3 under 5 and one more on the way. We live in Virginia and travel to NJ for Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas. My mother in law lives here but other in laws live in NJ-so our trip is the reverse of yours. Reading your post, I hope that one day…way down the road…I am the grandmother to my grandchildren that you described. She sounds amazing. And how true it is that we wouldn’t have all this love if it wasn’t for Jesus!
This was so beautiful. I could feel the love from your grandmother to you.
You are a very blessed lady to have that memory.
Diana Trautwein says
Gor.Ge.Ous. Oh, my. Thanks for this lovely gift at Christmas time, dear Dee.
Nina Ruth says
Beautifully written – pictures of lavish LOVE painted in words. Thank you.
Do you know what I see? I see love throughout those memories. The greatest gift is to pass those memories on to your kids and then their kids. I remember those very same memories but in a different setting. All of kids would gather around and listen as the grownups ooed and awed over the desserts and food so carefully prepared. When it was time to eat, we knew that Grandmother would have the longest prayer of thanks while stomachs growled. After we all ate, it was our turns to shine. We shared our Christmas parts in each play we had from church to school. We sang our songs and we were surrounded by laughter and family. Thank you for taking me back, my friend. I needed this to be reminded that I hold the key to making those memories stay alive. Love you, Deidra!
Shelly Miller says
A beautiful snapshot of the evolution of a little girl growing up to become a woman who understands how deeply she is loved. It’s so inspiring Deidra.
Amen!!!! I love you and thanks for the memories!!!!
What a beautiful post. So glad I read it. Thanks for sharing the memories and your family with us. Merry Christmas.
Thank you for sharing your childhood memories of such extravagant love all because of Jesus…wow, to have had loving grandparents and parents…what a treasure…Merry Christmas to you and yours…yes, all because of Him 🙂
emily wierenga says
oh deidra. this is the most beautiful thing i’ve read in a long time. thank you for heaping love on us tonight. XO
Kris camealy says
Wow, Deidra. This took my breath away. Absolute beauty. What a way you have with words. This may be my favorite piece by you…just wow.
Beth WIlliams says
Beautiful! God has gifted you with writing talent. This was just an amazing, fun story to read. Thanks soo much for sharing!
My grandparents died before I was 5-7 years old, so I didn’t have that type of Christmas. My family moved around a bit and all my sisters were in different states, so Christmas was just mom, dad and myself for many many years.
God Bless everyone and have a Blessed Christmas!
Deborah C says
WOW! This touched me today (Christmas 8:30 pm EST) in so many ways. My dear maternal grandmother passed away in December, 1999. I am a grandmother of 8 and none of them live in my town. This is the first Christmas where none my children (2 by birth and married) and 2 by marriage) and NONE of my grandchildren were here to celebrate the birth of Jesus with me and my husband. But I was blessed to see my youngest 2 grandchildren (ages 3 and 1) this past Saturday and again on Monday. When they left on Saturday, my Eva (the 3 yr old) didn’t want to leave. Her parents tell me she’s always asking to go to Grandma’s house (not Granddad’s house). I hope my grandchildren always recall how I played on the floor with them, used Care Bear and our stuffed monkeys to hold conversations with them. My son told me once when he came home (he’s a career soldier) with my grandson (my oldest grandchild) that all I cared about was seeing my grandson (not true, of course). I told my son that because I see his 3 children only once or twice a year, I am always excited to see how much they grown and changed. My son, on the other hand, usually looks the same give or take a few pounds! I have taken sooooooo many videos with the camera of my 3 yr old granddaughter who physically reminds me sooooooo much of my daughter when she was that age. Yes, I love, love, love being a grandmother. But more than that, I love, love, love being a child of the Most High God for while my children and grandchildren are in other states, my Lord is here with me ALL the time. So while I’m sad that my children and grandchildren aren’t here with me this Christmas, I rejoice in this day that we celebrate as His birthday. Thank you for sharing your childhood memories – they brought joy to my heart!