My mama has been gone for 17 Christmases. I still remember asking her every year what she wanted for Christmas.
“I just want my children around me,” she would say.
It took years after her death for me to understand that.
For some families, it seems Christmas is a competition to see how many boxes one can place around a Christmas tree. That’s never been me and I’m glad.
I now know what Mama meant about having your family around. It’s not about cuddling up with them and watching a movie; it’s just knowing they’re around.
We live in such a transient society where parents live on one coast and children on another. That makes it tough, especially on the holidays.
But what I can’t understand is families who live a few hours or even a few miles from one another and they gripe and complain about getting everybody together. The holiday season was meant for sharing it with one another. Knowing somebody loves you and cares about you is the greatest gift you can give or get.
I didn’t come from a tradition where we had church on Christmas Eve, but I love that time more than ever today. I love to see everybody else’s children, too, especially those who have grown up and now have families of their own. I love the fact that we sing “Silent Night” and know silent will not be the operative word for the remainder of the night. Folks will chat away as they share time with those they love.
I don’t have little folks around anymore and look forward to the time when a new generation of kids comes to be a part of our family. That’s the magic of Christmas and that’s what it is all about.
However, there are families who have been feuding for years. Sons or daughters no longer speak to parents or vice versa. Sometimes these silent standoffs are over things that seem so trivial, but are enough to make people hate one another.
Sometimes, there are miraculous moments when longstanding skirmishes are settled. Sometimes hearing stories about peace and goodwill are enough to break through the hardened hearts that have kept families apart.
There are also those who have no children or other family members, but long for time spent with folks who are willing to welcome them in as one of their own. It might be an older person you see at church every Sunday. It might be a young adult whose parents have passed away. Invite someone to be a part of your holiday celebration. It will be a gift that will pay dividends for years to come.
When I was single and in the media business, I had families who invited me to join them on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Their expression of kindness has stuck with me over the years.
In this day and time when long distance phone calls are almost nonexistent, call someone and catch up with him or her and wish them a Merry Christmas.
And after all this, if you still moan and gripe about going across town to see your mom or dad, just remember there are a lot of us out there who would love to spend time with ours. Enjoy it while you can.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.