One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned and have definitely tried to apply more of is the importance of family, love, and faith. Christmas is a celebration – it should be spent with loved ones – not pouting about how little you received or lack funds. Tonight, I was surrounded by men who will be spending the rest of their lives behind walls and separated from their loved ones by glass. Their faces lit up to talk to their kids on the phone or receive a Christmas card made by their “home boy”. They don’t care about money or gifts – most are happy to be alive and able to say “Merry Christmas- I love you.” to their loved ones. Too often are we consumed by materialism. Spoil our loved ones with everything they could possibly dream of which is nice to do but what if you didn’t? Do they expect it from you? Are they grateful? The unfortunate and startling fact is they do expect it and I suppose that is the point of this rant. Last night I worked with my unit or band of brothers who busted their butts all night to allow me to leave a little early so I can change and go to church with my family. I sat listening to the wisest priest I’ve had the pleasure of knowing reminding us that today is just another ordinary day- what makes it spectacular is Easter. We discover that this ordinary birth and ordinary man is none other than Jesus who died for our sins and that so called ordinary birth was the start of an extraordinary life. We, as humans, have to see something to believe it. See it, touch it, smell it, taste it… If we can’t then it’s hard for our brains to wrap around whatever it may be. Santa, for instance, to believe he exists when we are little and shows up delivering toys to good boys and girls we have to personify him- make him into a living, breathing, human with a white beard and a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly. God knew this about humans and knew we would not follow or believe unless we saw, heard, felt, etc the power of unconditional love so he sent his only son to become man. Bringing this back to point instead of celebrating the “ordinary day” with families some neglected to call, got upset cause it was the wrong toy-brand-or object of their desire, and overall forgot why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Today, Mary and Joseph became a family- my suggestion is don’t wait till it’s too late to realize what really matters isn’t the clothes, shoes, or electronics but the smiling face that is anticipating your reaction to the gift that they spent time and money on. The important part is to celebrate with family like Mary and Joseph did on this day in a manger.
I would like to take a trip down memory lane for a moment and take this blog to a personal level- I was blessed to be born into a family of nomaders also known as a proud military family and Christmas always reminds me of four things. 1) the Christmas markets in Germany. The smell of bread and hot spiced wine. The train ride we took where we would meet St. Nicholas and Schwartz Peter. 2) National Lampoons Christmas vacation and Sound of Music. 3) My mothers ability to turn any house into a German Christmas wonderland. You could not help but feel the spirit that radiated from her and her decorations. 4) Our Christmas morning traditions. In my formative years I was definitely all about the presents and would even become upset if one of my siblings received more than I or possibly the toy I had wanted. As I have aged I will have to say that things have changed. We no longer visit the markets on weekends, we aren’t all under the same roof to decorate with mom drinking hot coco that dad made belting out the hills are alive, and traditions take some planning to get everyone together. Due to my line of work I worked both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day- I told my parents that I would like to attend the midnight mass and that I would like it if they could go with me. After leaving work a little early to get to Mass I walked in to find almost all of my beautiful family patiently waiting for me to arrive. We parted ways after Mass wishing each other Merry Christmas. I went back to my baby sisters apartment as we have come to the realization that after 26 years of sleeping next to one another and waking together on Christmas morning anything different wouldn’t feel right. Mom and Dad arrived in the morning toting the ever important Christmas morning casseroles and coffee and then we were ready to begin. We passed out the gifts and like always went one at a time opening and I will have to admit that this year something was very different for me, I noticed things that I have never noticed before. With each gift that was wrapped with love and excitement I noticed instead of the gift the person behind the present… Jessica who spends 50+ hours a week in a thankless job on her feet busting her ass for the tips and money that she brings home is sitting straight up nervously biting her cuticles eyes wide watching for the reaction on my face as I open a box filled with odds and ends to hide the little trinket she couldn’t pass up because it reminded her of me when she was out. My dad, who has been on camera duty since birth has graduated from a camera that weighed close to 15 pounds on a tripod taking beta or VHS tapes to digital, awaits ever so patiently to catch that horrid shot of a crooked smile or mid laugh when we forget to suck in and turn our head so all the wrinkles fade out only because he loves those pictures of “real life”. Behind the camera his eyes still look the same as they did when I was a kid just now the face around the eyes has a few more laugh lines and whiter hair. Next to him on the edge of the couch- sitting, literally, on the edge of her seat in anticipation with her crooked little fingers that were responsible for wrapping hundreds of thousands of gifts, pulling up countless ponytails, healing the smallest of cuts, wiping the tears from our face, holding our hand in church, and a million other things– those little fingers interlaced with one another as though she can barely hold in the hugs and excitement is my mother. Her face searching for reactions to each gift to make sure she got us the right thing that we asked for. Her smile never fades and her love for us is palpable. This year- I noticed my family and truth be told they could have gotten me absolutely nothing and I would have been just as content and happy as I was this morning after opening all of my amazing Christmas presents. I got everything I asked for and more and I realized that walking into church to find their smiling faces all awake way past their bedtimes, watching each one of them this morning as I opened my presents and they opened theirs, and hugging them goodbye as I left for work. I received the best gift that Santa and God could have ever given me- my family. As each year passes by (entirely too quickly) I get a little older and so do they. We all have separate lives going on but for one morning it is as though we are back to the den in Germany, Colorado, Italy, New York, or any of the other countless locations where it was just us. I treasure moments like these because God only knows how many more of these precious moments there will be.
On that note I wrap this rant up because as my father would say “alright Edith… get to the point”- the point is this… enjoy every moment with your family. Relish the traditions. Forget the name brands and over materialism of the holiday and for once focus on the most important gift one can have- a loving family. With that said I am going to sit back and enjoy the last couple of hours of this holiday by watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.