Which parent hasn’t searched the world over and then paid through the nose for the elusive toy that darling Jimmy whispered into Santa’s ear was the “one” special present he wanted this year? (I confess, for me, it was a hard-to-get Lego kit that I ended up ordering online and paying almost as much in Federal Express fees to have it show up in time for Santa’s sleigh!) Was the surprise on my son’s face Christmas morning as he rushed down the stairs to see what Santa brought worth every penny and minute spent tracking that toy down? Of course. I am not suggesting that joy cannot be found in gift-giving (and receiving), or that it is not part of the fabric of many of our holiday memories.
As our kids move past the magical Santa stage, though, if they tell us there is nothing they need or want, why are we so quick to ask insistently, “Are you sure there’s nothing you want for Christmas this year?” Perhaps we should pay attention to those signals that suggest no “thing” is needed under the tree.
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” ~ Albert Einstein
Looking back, the experiences of life are what make the memories, not the “things” we collect along the way. When recalling a family trip, my sons do not say, “Oh, and remember the cool souvenirs we bought?” Wait, I take that back when it comes to our road trip to Yellowstone – I had to reverse course and return to a “shop” that was in someone’s garage, marked by the pile of antlers and other bones in the front yard. The “Jackalope” my son painstakingly selected, searching for just the right character in the little antlers jutting from the taxidermy creation, is still proudly hanging on his bedroom wall – but it is part of the memory of our travels through Wyoming that week. The memories of the rustic, western landscape were reinforced by wandering through a boys’ paradise of fossils, skulls, and fur pelts. Rather than the “thing” it was the experience of it that made the memory.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault
During our memory-making family trip to Italy, what moment does one of my sons always recall when we talk about our day trip to Florence? Seeing Michelangelo’s David? No. Climbing the steps to Giotto’s Tower? No. He always first recalls the moment when I lost the top of my gelato cone in the middle of a busy sidewalk, successfully saved it before it hit the ground, and ungracefully restored the scoop to the top of the cone as the gelato dripped down my arm and onto my purse . . . and one of the many “gypsies” chose to approach me at that moment, speaking Italian with hand extended asking for a contribution. I replied somewhat sharply, “Go away!” — as I simultaneously wiped up the gelato drippings before they coagulated into a sticky mess. My son informed me that she promptly called me a “witch-with-a-B” in clearly-understood English as she walked away. My husband and sons found the whole scene amusing, and apparently it became one of their favorite Florence memories. I was just happy to not have good gelato go to waste!
“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.” ~ Susan B. Anthony
So, as we move through the often hectic holiday season, keep in mind that those little things hidden among the big events and traditions may be the real memory-makers down the road. Take time to enjoy the little moments – playing a game of cards with your family, undistracted by phone, computer, or the never-ending task list; enjoying a leisurely chat with a friend over a glass of wine or hot chocolate; heading out for a walk with someone you care about (and the dogs, of course!) on a crisp winter night even though you “don’t have time”; watching your favorite holiday movie for the umpteenth time and letting the tears flow even though you know the ending (can anyone say “It’s A Wonderful Life”?). Remember, you can always clean tomorrow.
Ciao! ~ Kat