This year I saw my first hint of Christmas while shopping for a purple shirt for my Great Aunts’ Funeral on Sept 25th. It was a plastic tree, filled with lights and stood about 4 feet tall. The tree was twenty bucks and posted in front of the Wal Mart in San Leandro. Despite my sorrow for the lost of my Aunt, I was more saddened by the early arrival of Christmas sales while there were still so many fall holiday’s and events that still needed to be cherished and celebrated. Then I remembered that commercialism, capital gains and branding are so much more apart of this country’s fabric than honoring Indigenous People Day, lifting the creative tricks and treats of Halloween, keeping Día de la Muertos sacred and allowing friends and families to gather and salute their Veterans, cook meals for Thanksgiving and then prepare for the gift giving and winter celebrations that are most cherished in your homes.
My reason for mentioning this early arrival of Christmas “for sale” items is because it diminishes the true value and reason for the season for me. During my youth, my family didn’t have all the bells, garlands, lights and trees that represented Christmas. There were no stockings on the mantel or cookies left for Santa, and if there was smoke coming from anywhere . . . it wasn’t a chimney from a log burning fire! My family used this time of year to honor loved ones we had lost. Our elders always told stories of the beloved Great Aunts that saved enough money to keep the lights in the house on so we wouldn’t be in the dark. We heard of the Uncles that hustled so we had heat and something to eat. Our Grandparents were the God fearing and knew the Bible by heart, yet they were always the super-heroes in our stories.
Without a doubt there are plenty of families out there that struggled through cold winters and lived to talk about it. What makes my family story so special is that we have always maintained so much power, pride and persistence throughout our ordeals. The resiliency and respect that we hold for those that kept us going and each other is the richness I cherish most in our Layne Family. There is no shying away from the storms, we just find a way to weather it. When someone is locked up or knocked down, we accept the collect calls and make sure they can listen in on the Happy Birthday Songs being sung and can tell each member who is passed the phone they love them and will be home soon.
This Holiday Season is heavier than others years since we’ve lost six relatives since July 2022, four were unexpected and two of them were homicides. Yet when I asked my family to best describe “what family means to them” during this season (on our daily fam bam text thread), BLESSED, LOVE, TOGETHERNESS and JESUS were in the top 10 repeated responses. One cousin added that it’s still a time for us to stand tall and keep the Layne Love going. Another cousin wrote that “we were hit hard this year but we bounded back and only lowered our heads to look down at our shoes.” These are the people, the feelings and the real reasons for the season for me.
In gratitude for the Layne Clan – Silena