Whenever Christmas comes around, I go to the Blaisdells. Maybe not literally, but figuratively and imaginatively and spiritually, at the very least. Their home became a welcoming haven, and ultimately my home, at crucially significant stages of my life, and most especially at Christmas.
I recall spending several Christmases in the warmth of their home in Ft. Worth, Texas, during the halcyon days of college. And I can remember like it was yesterday, one holiday time during my graduate school tenure: driving in the dead of night from Nashville, Tennessee to Ft. Worth, through wretched weather, enduring one of the wheels literally falling off of my car, just so I could be in the Blaisdell’s living room on Christmas morning.
Chuck Blaisdell was and remains one of my dearest friends on the face of the earth. We’ve known each other since the topsy-turvy days of high school CYF conferences. When I arrived at TCU in Ft. Worth, it was through Chuck that I met his parents Hazel and Dick and their home would become a joyful dwelling place for me.
Sunday afternoons at the Blaisdells meant the Dallas Cowboys and brisket. Thanksgiving meant turkey (and at least a week’s worth of turkey soup) and games of Risk and Monopoly until the wee hours. And Christmas meant grace and comfort and cherry tarts. (To this day, cherry tarts are a necessary portion of our home’s Christmas morning rituals.) And the blustery days of the Super Bowl weekend meant chili and a persistent debate about which Cowboys team was the greatest of all time.
In time Chuck’s brothers Jim and Greg would also become beloved to me. Despite time and distance, I cannot imagine anything I would not do for them if they asked me. (Jacob and Esau grew apart over time, too. But as a sign of my esteem for Chuck’s brothers I would echo Jacob’s sentiment when he embraced Esau in reunion at long last: “…… truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God, with such favor have you received me.”)
It was and is Hazel and Dick, however, who provided the strong, mysterious, and lasting attachment to Christmas for me. Among all the wonderful people whose hospitality I have been privileged to enjoy, the Blaisdells were and remain the ultimate expression of what Christmas is all about: a treasuring of simple, lastingly good relationships, good events, good food; mercy and jubilation at the daily gifts life brings one and all. Their loving warmth was unconditional. Their affectionate affirmation was abiding and gracious. Their joyous gratitude was deep and profound and their hospitality irrefutably genuine.
To put it simply, the Blaisdells made a place for me in their hearts and their home, and because of their tender mercies, I was born anew. What I received from the Blaisdells I suppose I would call “Blaisdell blessedness” – as beautiful as new fallen snow, as exquisite as a baby’s smile, as essential for a fully developed life as the air we all breathe.
Every year the same item is inscribed at the top of my Christmas wish list: that everyone – family and friends and acquaintances and strangers –may experience some good portions of “Blaisdell blessedness” during the high holiday times. It is one of the best ways I know of to get close to a certain manger in Bethlehem.