Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A New Perspective on Gifts

Many years ago, the community of Bethpage, New York began a new tradition. A local businessman, Gary Bretton, had experienced a house fire. People in the community came together and donated necessary articles to his family at his store, like blankets, sheets, etc and cash donations. It was around Christmas and he came up with an idea. He started a fundraising event to help others at this time of year. Every December, a football game was scheduled and all of the proceeds went to needy families. His venture requires many people who work together for the goal of helping others. It is a huge success, raising thousands of dollars for local families.
While I was talking to Gary one day, he mentioned that if every family bought one less gift for themselves and donated it to a needy family, it would be a big help.
My family started that tradition and now I have learned that my children and their families have been doing the same. Exponentially this gift giving can make a big difference in needy people's lives.

Not to be so serious this time of year as it is a time of joy. My brother and his family began a different type of gift giving. We adults stopped buying for each other long ago but we do meet on Christmas Eve and keep the Seven Fishes tradition. My brother mentioned that he wanted us to bring a beautifully wrapped ugly and/or totally useless gift. He reads the poem,"The Night Before Christmas" and each participant has a line of that poem. As your line comes up, you can choose one of the gifts. Before you open it you can trade it for one of the open gifts. This activity has become a highlight of the evening because we are all laughing at some of the gifts. Many are reused every year in disguised boxes. The most coveted gift was a small woman's leg lamp inspired by "A Christmas Story". Everyone coveted that gift!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7, 1941
A Day of Infamy

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Why isn't this anniversary splashed all across the news? This was a major event as it brought us smack into WWII, a war we had been reluctant to get involved in. It should be remembered and described in our national media for posterity.
Our WWII veterans are dying off. My Dad who had the bad luck to win the draft lottery in early 1941, told me all about his experience on that day. He was on a train traveling, care of U Sam, across the country that Sunday morning. He could not believe his eyes. People were up early and moving about. He did not know why and when he found out, he was just as surprised as all other Americans.
Of course his army life changes dramatically after that day. He was no longer serving in peacetime but in war. His life was scripted by the US Army for the next 4 and 1/2 years. Little did he know that he would serve in the Pacific theater for most of those years.
Christmas was a magical time back in the 1950's and 60's

Today, there are few fairy tales and happy childlike times for kids. So much reality stares us in the face through the media and that includes our children, as well. I, for one, think that the myth of Santa Claus was not a bad thing. We children had a lot to look forward to and it wasn't only in the form of material things. It was family and being together.
During the season, we usually asked for one gift. One year it was bicycles. We were so thrilled to receive brand new bikes that year. My mother perpetuated another myth. We all thought that we had so many gifts under the tree. She bought our school clothes, including socks and underwear and saved these for Christmas. She carefully wrapped every gift and hid them well.
Then there was the inevitable truth. Kids in school told me over and over that there was no Santa, I fought with them, instead of laughing about it. I suppose I liked the idea of earning presents and trying to be a good person. When I finally allowed myself to face the truth, I delighted in conspiring with my parents to keep the idea going for my younger siblings.
One Christmas Eve when I was about 6 years old, I woke up and saw a gift dragged into the living room. I was half asleep and I believed my mother when she said, " Santa won't come if you are awake, now go to sleep so he can bring gifts to our house." I was gullible but I wanted to accept the whole story. It helped that my grandparents lived close by and perpetuated the tale.
Years later, when I was in high school, I spent Christmas Eve picking up gifts from stores like a good elf for my mother since there were many other younger siblings waiting patiently for the red-suited guest. That night I had to bring a wagon back from a neighbor's home where it was hidden. It had snowed that year and the bell on the wagon clanged loudly until I could silence it. The next morning my youngest brother said he heard Santa because he heard bells during the night. It was fun to be part of the conspiracy.
I suppose that holidays are more important for older people, as well. Presents  are certainly less desirable than seeing loved ones. Two years ago, I witnessed the best gift of all. My blind 92 year-old Dad was sitting at my daughter's home in a chair right near the tree. My two year-old grandson walked over to him and pointed to the trains moving around tree. He kept saying"trains" and then proceeded to explain, in baby talk, all about them. My father smiled and listened intently to the explanation. Then, my two-year-old granddaughter walked up to him and told him all about her day in baby talk, Again, he smiled and listened intently. I do believe that that was the best gift he received that year. He did not want any thing when we asked what he wanted.
As it turns out, that was his last Christmas with us and I know that the little ones brightened the holiday for him.