Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Christmas to remember

I cannot recall the last time I spoke these words, but today I can honestly say,

"We had so much FUN this year at the family's annual Christmas Eve gift exchange dinner."

I can also state that Maureen and I have never put so much time and energy into the gifts we were presenting to our sibling, family members. I know, Christmas is said "to be for children" but not this year; not in this family. If I'm remembering accurately, there was only two children under the age of ten years present at this gathering. The children's time would come either later in the evening back at their homes or Christmas morning when they would gather around their family's Christmas tree.

It was a few years ago when all the grown-ups got their heads together and seriously discussed the concerns of several heads of families about whether we could afford to continue to buy and give gifts to all the children in our huge extended group, what with the average family income being what it was and how there was little hope for much improvement in the near future. We decided that no one would continue to do so. Let's face it, our family was growing at a never before known rate when it came to the number of children there was to buy gift for. It was time for everyone to tighten their respective belts.

Even Santa knows these are desperate times for millions of families throughout the nation.

You couldn’t tell it from this photo of my daughter and me on Christmas Eve.

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We had just eaten a superior buffet style dinner and were enjoying the good spirits displayed by all present.

Maureen began working on this year’s gifts last January. She dedicated countless hours to each gift she created in her spare time.  She’s retired but still works three to four days a week at her part-time job as a check-out clerk for one of our local supermarkets. That job cuts deeply into her spare time so whenever she sat down to watch the evening TV line-up with me, she had her crocheting box along side and worked while she watched.

Do you have any idea how long it would take most folk to crochet seven very large afghans?  Each one required approximately thirty dollars worth of yarn. Add the value of her time and you still would be guessing trying to place a price on one.  Beautiful and of higher quality than most due to the expertise she had developed over the many years she has spent perfecting her technique, I’d say that calling one of her creations “priceless” is not a stretch of the truth.

When our hosts opened their gift, they immediately reached out and grasped me in a big hug. I assumed that was their reaction to my giving them the present. I could only say “You are hugging the wrong person,” Maureen did ALL the work involved. With that they rushed off to find her. I followed until they found her and  they in turn, hugged her even harder than they did me, also expressing their gratitude fervently. Doug, whom evidently was thinking about obtaining an afghan for someone close and dear, asked Maureen what she would charge to make a special afghan for him.  She thought about it and estimated a price of two hundred dollars. Doug was surprised and assured her that she was way under pricing her creations.

My gift to everyone was a two hour long memory disk of old family photos in the form of a slideshow with special affects and my personal pick of appropriate background music from my “Favorite songs” folder.

I too had spent many hours gathering photos from various family members, going though every box that was given to me, selecting what I considered to be the most thought provoking and comment or question generating images. My brother, one of the hosts, took a disk, placed it in his DVD player and got it started. People came from all over the house to sit or stand where they could to share the experience. Their reaction was exactly what I expected. Questions were shouted out as never before seen faces appeared on the large TV screen in black and white.

Several people commented on my excellent choice of music and most had something to say about how someone on the screen had changed, either for the better or worse. The friendly, verbal pokes and prodding went on endlessly.  You know how siblings and other relatives can be at such gatherings. There was a few cat-call or whistles when someone’s shorts were too short or a female had adopted their version of a sexy pose or a young, buff, male displayed all his beefcake attributes and looked very proud while doing it.

Everyone present seemed to love the show and wanted me to assure them that their copy would be exactly like the preview presented. It was cut short because no one would want to experience all that for two hours. There were presents to be shared and gushed over. Also there was desserts to follow the previous feast, enjoyed along with contributed, favorite, family stories.

It may be a while before this year’s event is topped. Maybe it can never be…topped that is.

I only hope everyone had a gathering like this and came away, refreshed and rejuvenated about Christmas as this old man did. Perhaps it isn’t hopeless after all.

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