Archived Story

Moments, not presents, bring holiday happiness

Published 10:10am Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting

“One day, you will look back on your life and realize that your best moments were when you did something for others.”

“You want me to buy your coffee, don’t you?”

“Yes, I want you to have precious memories.”

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors — both named Bruce — who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: great gifts are to give credit where it’s due, bite your tongue, write a friendly letter, call a loved one, and pay attention.

Merry Christmas

Gift bags change hands more often than a dollar bill.

It wasn’t always so.

When lights began to grow on trees, we pushed tables together to make enough room to eat. We suffered from a full-nest syndrome. The kids ate at card tables with frail legs. Perilous dining. Plates of food went by at a furious rate. By the time I was finally able to take a bite, someone passed another plate heaped with grub.

After the meal had been devoured and the dishes were washed, we formed a circle of love. It was time for the youngest to pass out the gifts. As the radio played Burl Ives singing unwrap music, the gifts were opened as if it were a timed event. No rodeo cowboy ever had better times wrestling a gift. Shredded wrapping paper filled the air.

We watched tots playing with boxes and realized that we needn’t have put any toys in the boxes. Soon, all the presents had been opened except my father’s.

He looked at his gifts. Most of them were the same size and shape. That was because most of them were boxes of chocolate-covered cherries.

Dad picked up a gift and said something like, “It’s so pretty, it’s a shame to open it.”

We all paused to watch my father as he didn’t open his gifts.

Dad reached into his pocket and removed a well-worn Barlow jackknife. If someone asked to use my father’s jackknife, he handed it to the requestor with the admonition, “Be careful. It’s sharp.” The blades had been homed thin by years of sharpening. He carefully sliced the cellophane tape in order to preserve the gift-wrapping paper. He folded the paper and placed it neatly on the floor near his chair. It took him longer to open his few gifts than it did for all of us to open ours. Christmas comes and goes all too quickly. Maybe Dad was trying to slow it down and take the time to appreciate the gifts.

As I recall the events of Christmas past, I realize that possessions never bring as much happiness as moments do. Cameras capture moments. So do memories.

When the past and the present collide as they do each Christmas, I know that happiness doesn’t come from having things. Happiness comes from being a part of things.

I once owned a Ford whose gas gauge moved in direct response to the speedometer. When the car’s speed increased, I could see the fuel level drop. There are those who claim that this is a common experience for humans around Christmas time. Folks see their joy level dip with each added activity and obligation.

Maybe everyone needs to open his or her gifts with an old jackknife.

I’ve been reading

This from The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Stenbeck, “I have tried to isolate and inspect the great talent that was in Ed Ricketts, that made him so loved and needed and makes him so missed now that he is dead. Certainly, he was an interesting and charming man, but there was some other quality that far exceeded these. I have thought that it might be his ability to receive, to receive anything from anyone, to receive gracefully and thankfully, and to make the gift seem very fine. Because of this everyone felt good in giving to Ed — a present, a thought, anything.”

Talking to the HolsteinI was talking to the Holstein the other day. The Holstein is a retired milk cow, so she has time to talk. I told the Holstein that people complain when they don’t get everything they want for Christmas.The Holstein chewed her cud thoughtfully and said, “Getting everything you want is not much fun. If you get everything you want, you miss out on the joy of wanting things.”

Meeting adjourned

“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” — Oren Arnold

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