December 4, 2008

Holidays are about remembering to me.

Last night my wife and I were decorating the house. One thing we did was put stockings on the fireplace. It looked wrong somehow. Four stockings hung from their holders. Usually we have six (and even more when the daughters-in-law and grandchildren are there). This year we placed four because we will have our daughter and Barbie's dad, who now lives with us, in addition to Barbie and me. The rest will be going other directions. Next year is our year for the family.

How do we assess that four stockings look strange? Simply memory. Memory of past Christmases. Memories of when our children were younger and still at home?

Do we do the same thing with other memories? I think we do, but we do not seem to realize why we react certain ways to things that do not align with our memory. Memory may force us to think negatively about a current way of worship or a holiday event or relationships simply because they do not fit with our recollection. But the reality is that our assessment of a new situation or relationship or event is neither right nor wrong, just different.

Perhaps we should see our memories as a blessing or a truth by themselves (blessing or not) rather than view them as a way to judge (perhaps unfairly) the present. The present needs to stand on its own for good or ill without undue weight of the past.

So this Christmas should not be judged for ones in the past. Let's just enjoy it for itself. And at the same time, let's remember past Christmases for themselves, with pleasant or not so pleasant memories.

I remember joys of toys I thought I was not going to get and did or the disappointment of the socks I got from my grandfather that were his old ones and he asked for them back since I didn't want them or fit into them at that age.

I remember the foods, pleasant like Thanksgiving but sweeter, sweeter beyond my capacity now to enjoy as much. I so enjoyed my mom's gumdrop cake that she called fruitcake when it wasn't and my grandma's mincemeat pie that was more like raisin pie and not mincemeat. Or Barbie's cranberry cake. You get what I mean.

I remember our own traditions when our separate families were not around, like chili on Christmas Eve with cornbread and honey or going to the matinee on Christmas day.

I remember phone calls that lasted longer than normal weekly or monthly calls to family.

My prayer for myself and for you will be that this year's remembrance of the gift of God's own son will be filled with joyous times that will go into the wonderful memory bank for future reflections. May it be a joyous time all by itself! May the Lord bless your celebrations!