There was a time, not all that long ago, when I loved the Holidays more than any time of year. The moment the air felt like fall, visions of pumpkin pie would dance in my head; leaves brilliant with colors falling like petals from a sky scented with elm, and oak fires burning in warm homes filled with family. Halloween was the opening act for Thanksgiving, and the day after Thanksgiving, the search for The Tree would begin.
For years, I labored selfishly under the assumption that my own family; my children and my wife, felt the same, that they looked forward with the same hope and anticipation as I. I assumed that the traditions of both our families –my wife’s and mine- would carry over to ours, taking from both, and creating our own Holiday traditions; sacred recipes long-held secret, taken out only once a year and placed on the table with the reverence of sacraments. Ornaments from generations before, each with a memory and a story attached, unwrapped as if rare jewels, and hung side-by-side with clay and felt decorations made in kindergarten.
For two months, hope, tradition, and promise were side-by-side with abundant tables and family. I would begin and end each day praying that our sons and our daughter would carry the traditions forward… forward and into the folds of their own families in the years to come.
I know now that nothing of what I’d hoped was ever present in them; that they did not share the same sense of spirit and tradition that I did. I know now that by devoting myself –for even two months- to the trappings of the past and the bindings of family, that I was hanging my own Holiday culture of what I believed a family should be on them. Like an ornament.
I know now that I was wrong about all of it, and that I may have tarnished whatever good they may have had in their hearts once, or ever would, for those two days, for this season.
And so, this year, as the last, and the years before, I will not mark these days as I once did. I will not awaken with carols on the radio, or rejoice at the sight of a pan of perfect cornbread. I will not fly through the mall searching for the one gift I know will please, nor ply through the rows of fir and spruce and pine for the tree that might have been our Center. I will not lie awake in the days and weeks before, barely able to contain my anticipation.
This year, as the last, and the years before, I will hold it all in my own heart, and keep my own counsel. I will not harden my children’s hearts with my own selfishness over traditions, hopes, dreams and… two days in a season that only mattered to me. This year, as the last, and the years before, I will hope and I will pray; for peace in their lives, and that they might one day forgive an old man who was too blind to see, too deaf to hear, and lost in his own way.
Wishing everyone a peaceful and hopeful season… this year and always.
© 2013. J Buck Ford