So this isn’t meant to be a lecture or a sermon – to be perfectly clear.
What it’s meant to be is an opinion, an observation, how I am feeling this time of year and a sharing of what life to me is all about and why so many of us miss the boat.
My memories of Christmas as a little kid are strong. They are good memories. Some of the things that remain in my head are things like the trip to buy a live Christmas tree with my mom and dad for $2 – MAYBE $3 or $4 if we were lucky. They were set up in a wooden corral behind the Dairy Queen in Drexel Hill. We would load it on the roof of the car and bring it home where we would decorate it with those large bulbs and real tinsel. None of those tiny LED lights and beads or other fake looking junk.
There was the trip to see Santa at one of the department stores in Upper Darby’s 69th Street. There was a Lits Brothers, a Gimbels and a JC Penney along with Sears. There also was a Santa in a house that sat on 69th Street. Anyone who is a Delco resident these days probably wouldn’t venture to 69th Street after the sun goes down. A darned shame it is. And none of those department stores remains.
In the days leading up to Christmas we would drive around the area looking for the houses with the best lights. My dad would slow down and we’d check them out. The glow of the blues, the greens, the reds made my head hazy. Even seeing those lights now brings back that same feeling of peace, joy, good will toward others. It’s a certain spirit of things that is missing in a lot of people.
Every year I watch the animated A Charlie Brown Christmas. I could probably recite it word-for-word as I have never missed the show from my earliest memory to today. There are lots of good messages in that 30-minute cartoon and it’s sad that most miss them.
Even the oldest of my children at 26 seems to have lost the good feelings that come with the time of the season. With such cynicism he points out that movies like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carole are “sappy” and have nothing to do with real life. Have we all become so cold and empty-hearted that even those “sappy” movies don’t bring you some sense of what the world and life should and could be? My spouse is of the same opinion. She like countless others run around for weeks preceding the holiday stressed out to the point of saying, “Gosh, I HATE this time of year…”
Sure, the commercialism of Christmas is well-known. And yes, retailers are looking for every cent that they can grab this time of year. My answer? So what? Who cares? Forget that aspect of it and just treat it as a time of year when you can go out and buy someone you care about a gift that means something to you and them. Isn’t that enough?
When you’re at the mall, you see them. People like my oldest and my spouse. They have a worried, angry, inpatient and resentful look on their faces. You can see they don’t like this, don’t want any part of this and find it just something else to annoy them or make them feel bad.
That isn’t and never was the intention of Christmas or the winter holidays. They are meant to be a time for family gatherings, gifts, visits, recalling old memories and making new ones. It’s not meant to be a bad time of year but a good time of year.
Sure, there are people missing from your lives who were probably here last year or maybe a few years ago. But life is life. Our elderly parents are going to pass away like we all will one day. Heck, I was all of 15 when my dad died. On December 16 nonetheless. So if anyone should have a reason to feel bad and angry, etc., it should be me. I still remember going to the department store with my oldest sister returning Christmas gifts we bought for my father. I hung onto the Old Spice aftershave I had bought him. And this time of year definitely reminds me of how much I miss him, how different my life would have been or could have been had he not died at the tender age of 46. But there’s nothing about that that I can change.
So each year I put a Christmas greens blanket on his grave and stand and think for a few minutes trying to embrace the notion that he realizes I am there and that I have tried to be a good person in his memory and the memories of the other important people in my life. I cherish my friends and my family. I want them to realize how important each minute is with each other.
But our world and our society doesn’t buy into that 100 percent. I would tell anyone with a sour holiday attitude to think about the people in Newtown where 20 small lives were lost without a real reason. Every one of those parents will be sadder than anyone could imagine this year. And the holidays from now on will bring nothing but a heartache and feeling of emptiness that no one and nothing can ever fix.
And it’s not just the people in Newtown. Anyone who has lost a loved one. The best you have is memories, the things, the events, whatever, that make you sit there and smile – even for just a moment. That’s all we have.
I think this time of year more than any other time of year makes me realize that yes, while my life isn’t even close to perfect, I still am extremely lucky. Ask Scrooge. It took him a long night with several ghosts to understand that each of us has a role to play here on this planet. We are all here for a reason and we should enjoy the best way we can our time with each other. There are going to be tough times but there are also will be pleasant times.
When I was in a store the other day, I noticed a guy rushing to the door with that “look.” So what did I do? I waited for him, told him to take his time and held the door and actually let him go in ahead of me.
“Relax, take your time, it’s gonna be OK,” I told him with a smile. He just looked at me, appeared to take a deep breath and looked at me. “Whew, thanks,” he said quietly. And I shot back, “Hey, it’s just another day. It’s all going to be fine. You’ll get it all done. Don’t worry.” A handshake later, he was on his way.
Maybe it meant nothing. Maybe it made him feel better. All I know is that I had to let him know. And that’s what this post is all about.
I miss my dad, my mom, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles who are gone. My memories are strong, though. I will never forget them. And now it’s about making and preserving the memories of a new family branch of the family tree – mine.
So lose the stress about the cooking, the cleaning, the decorating, the home chores and tasks and things to get done. It will all be there.
The memories and the people who help you make them, however, won’t. And when they are gone and you regret it, then it’s too late to do anything.
So do me these favors this holiday season: hold the door for someone, drop even a quarter into the Salvation Army bucket, call the cousin, friend or family member you haven’t seen in a long time. Tell them you are thinking of them and wish them a nice holiday. Just for one day making someone else feel good that they are in your thoughts.
You never want anything to be too late.
I remember being in the car with my dad one day when I muttered or blurted out, “Dad, I love you.” He turned to me and said, “What?” I replied, “I love you. I know it’s weird but I never say it to you.” He looked at me, smiled and said, “That’s OK. I love you too.” We never got another chance to have that same exchange.
I don’t want that for any of you. Make the change, make the call, shake the hand and say “I love you” to someone who you really do love.
And most of all, have a Merry Christmas.
— Andy Hachadorian