Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas 2005

Christmas is a season for reflection. As I look back over 44 years, I am humbled by the joys and blessings that I have received, and I am in awe of all of the warm Christmas memories that have been created.

It took me almost 40 years to realize the aspects of life that matter the most. For me, they are: Faith family, friends, food, and fun. I call them the Five Fs and they are listed in that precise order for a reason.

Faith is the foundation. It is first. It is foremost, and it is the basis for the following four Fs. Without a strong foundation, it’s hard to build a fulfilling life. Faith comes in many forms and many denominations, you know best what “faith” means to you, and so I’ll leave it at that.

No other time throughout the year offers as much opportunity to appreciate and enjoy family. Even when we think we’ve had all of the “family” we can stand, the holidays keep giving us more. My fondest Christmas memories have strong ties to family: My daughter’s first Christmas, my son’s first Christmas, the first Christmas in a new home with my newlywed wife, my crazy Aunt Virginia— three sheets to the wind on Christmas
Eve— singing Mele Kalikimaka on top of the coffee table.

The things— the toys and junk— aren’t what make a memorable Christmas. Sure, I remember the Christmas I received my first bike and the morning I unwrapped the Easy Bake Oven Santa brought, but I don’t remember many other material gifts. I do remember the last Christmas afternoon I spent with my grandfather. I remember the last Thanksgiving meal I ate with my grandmother. I remember the stupid-looking matching pajamas my mother made my brother and me wear every Christmas Eve.

Today’s quirky Christmas event is tomorrow’s fond Christmas memory.

Friends are vital at Christmas. Being a friend during this first Christmas following Hurricane Katrina might be more important than ever. Everyone in our area was affected. Most of us lost something; many lost too much, some lost everything. Friends came to the rescue— friends next door, friends from other towns, friends from other states. New friendships were created and lasting relationships were cemented. Never in my lifetime have friends— new and old— been more important.

Christmas is synonymous with food, and food has such strong connections with our memories. Christmas is the only time of year that friends stop by the house throughout the day bearing gifts of food. For generations my family has eaten a huge formal meal on Christmas Eve and I can remember each and every one that I have attended or hosted. Christmas morning wouldn’t be complete without a batch of my neighbor Mary Virginia McKenzie’s sweet rolls and my mother’s garlic-cheese grits.

For many years I chased fun. I looked under every nook and cranny in search of fun, I tried to create fun. In retrospect, my fondest memories have occurred when I wasn’t trying to make fond memories, and certainly when I wasn’t trying to create fun. Most of my fondest remembrances were unintentional memories that were created by accident or happenstance, most happened when the other Fs were in play.

When three or more of the Five Fs are present, fun happens. It doesn’t have to be created. Relatively late in life I have found that true fun and sheer joy come from the unintentional implementation of the Five Fs.

This Christmas enjoy all of the joys the season unintentionally offers, for they will surely become fond memories in years to come. Pray for those who need help and guidance. Give to those in need like you’ve never given before. Give food, give clothing, give time, and give your friendship. Spend time with your family, spend time with your friends, make new friends, and make sure to do everything you can to assure that everyone who needs to eat is able to eat.

In the meantime, my children will be wearing matching pajamas and I’ll be singing Mele Kalikimaka.

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