Merry Christmas from the Family


We’re still a few weeks out, but the Christmas excitement is building. The Advent wreath is on the table. The nativity has been assembled. Lists are being written and revised.

Mild weather in the Northeast has added a layer of complexity to the preparations. Not a single snowflake has yet fallen from the sky. Unseasonably high temperatures are forecast well into the future. I’ll take as much of it as I can get.

What suits the adults, however, doesn’t seem to suit the kids. They want snow—lots of it, piles of it, driveways full of it. They want to wake up in the morning, mount their sleds, and glide right out the door.

They want icicles and hot chocolate and popcorn and wet mittens and rosy cheeks.

As shoveler-in-chief, I offer glory and praise to God for clear skies and windshields without frost. The children pace and stroke their nonexistent beards. The shovels gather dust in the garage.

“We can’t have it all,” I tell them. “Sometimes it snows and we wish it wouldn’t. Sometimes it doesn’t snow and we wish it would. You just gotta roll with it.”

“Psssshhhhhffffffttttt,” comes their scowlish reply. These kids know what winter is and they want it all. “Give us wind chill,” they say. “Give it now.”

Eleven year-old Clara authorized expenditure of a few hard-earned dollars. She bought an ornament for her grandmother. It was carved from an olive branch by Christians in the Holy Land.

Clara plainly took as much pleasure in finding the right gift for someone special as she did in helping the beleaguered Jerusalemites. God love that child.

Nine year-old Magdalena loves when the radio station moves to the Christmas format. She could listen to Jose Feliciano sing “Feliz Navidad” all day. Sometimes it seems like we do. I don’t mind it so much—the first five times.

Managing a seven year-old boy’s Christmas expectations is trickier than it ought to be. If you totaled up everything our Paddy put on his list this year, you’d be looking at the cost of a new laptop computer.

I suppose someday soon he might actually want a new laptop computer for Christmas. Until then, he’ll settle for a Star Wars-themed Lego set. It just so happens that the one he has in mind costs $300. Heaven help us all.

Even Sally, about to turn three, wants in on the action. That’s the benefit of having older siblings. When something exciting is happening, you feel the energy. It could be good, or it could be bad, but it’s exciting. And it’s happening.

“You can take a nap if you want to, old man,” she says (with her eyes). “Ain’t no way I’m missing this.”

I’m sure none of my kids would turn down a temporary transfer to a different family. Allegedly there are families out there where you don’t have to fight with your siblings over who gets to light the pink candle.

In some families, I’m told, everyone gets everything they want for Christmas and Mom and Dad aren’t constantly talking about Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the true meaning of this or that.

Well, tough nougies, as we used to say in Olden Times. Just be glad you don’t get a lump of coal in your stocking like your Grandpa did when he was your age.

My wife and I have a birthday-and-Christmas pact: no presents. For each other, that is. Violations are tolerated, but only infrequently and with caveats. Religious tchotchkes seem to be acceptable. Jokey presents are okay, too.

What’s best about our pact is that it allows us, in a small way, to tune out the commercialism. It allows us to concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas: family, charity, and, of course, the birth of Our Lord.

It allows me to ask her what she wants for Christmas, and her to reply with a piece of Christina Rossetti’s famous poem:

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

God bless your family this Christmas.

From the December 2015 issue of Fairfield County Catholic

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