As for Christmas presents, I have to say I have nothing left of any present I received as a child. Nothing physical anyway. I have vivid memories though of many wonderful things. An entire Hoppalong Cassidy outfit complete with guns when I was four. Oh yes I learned to shoot at an early age. A real Daisy BB Pistol at 8 years old. The front of it broke down and you could shoot one BB, pellet, or dart at a time. I’m ashamed now to admit it, but I once killed a sparrow with it. I was like Opie Taylor though, and cried. Then I went and buried it. I never shot another living thing with that gun. At 10 I got a Schwynn Bicycle, and learned to ride it quickly. I stayed around the streets close to home though. I ranged far from home at times, but usually on foot with a big stick in my hand or a baseball bat on my shoulder. At 11 years old, I got a reflective telescope which I never learned to use. Always every year, there were books, comics and classics. There were ball cards. At 12 years old a Lionel train. I remember all these things now so clearly, as I write if them. I could go on and on…My first record player at thirteen…but, it’s not the things, which are all now long gone which counted. My Dad helped me learn to ride my bike, and to shoot my gun. I remember the look of happiness in HIS eyes even now…just like it was yesterday. His laughter at my foibles and mistakes. That familiar laugh, so distinctive. It’s not the gifts. It never really was. I would bundle them all together, all of them I ever got just to hear that laugh once more. Christmas should be more about presence than presents, more about the giving of memories than the receiving of things which do not last. Christmas is what you receive in your heart and keep forever.
I used to wonder what it would be like to be old. I distinctly remember when I was 12 years old in 1962, thinking that it would be forever before I would be as ancient as my Old Grandparents! Grandma was only 63 that year…two years younger than I am now, and Grandpa was 68. All things are relative aren’t they? My Grandparents lived many more years. My Grandmother died in 1999 at the age of 100..and I, the man who had thought her old at 63 was still recovering from the first of two heart attacks, and could not help carry her coffin from the O’Zion Church that few steps to the graveyard just outside the back door.
She had never seemed to have aged that much at all from that day in 1962, up until perhaps the last year of her life. I certainly did. Relativity.
I looked at my own Grandchildren tonight and wondered what they will remember. I am 65 so I must seem decidedly aged to them. I look at myself through one set of eyes, one angle of perception, and they look with different eyes. I could not see in my Grandmother’s eyes her hopes and dreams for me. My Grandchildren cannot see mine for them. All through our lives, we are hopelessly at odds with a set of expectations for ourselves which we perceive that others have for us, when in fact our own expectations are probably always greater and more pressing.
One thing I do know that my Grandmother wished for me was more happiness and less worry. I know this because she told me so in person one day. The only other thing she wished was that I would come visit more often. I so very much wish I had.
So, for my Grandchildren…I wish for you more happiness and less worry…..and come visit when you can.