December 18, 2013 - This weekend whilst erecting the Rush fake Christmas tree, I started to harken back to the Christmases of yore. The boys were not at home, so I had plenty of time for thoughts.
Often I fret over not gifting the correct, or good enough presents and thoughts during this past weekend's fake tree rising started to go down that old, familiar path. Then a funny thing happened, my mind wandered down a new avenue. Instead of looking to the future and possible disappointments, I went back -- way back -- to when the only gray near my hair was on my grandparents' heads.
I remembered being carried from a late-1960s Buick on a cold, clear Christmas Eve night and looking up through sleepy eyes and from my dad's arms and seeing a red light way up there near the stars. Rudolph, I thought. Santa was on his way.
I remembered one year for Christmas I got a brand new, gold-colored Huffy bike, with a banana seat and sissy bar. My first bike. When Dad assembled it, I remember he put the goose neck on backward. I don't know why I remembered that, but I didn't find out until the weather got warm enough to go outside and my buddies pointed it out to me.
One year I got a Mickey Mouse camera and I took pictures on Christmas day of all the Rush relatives (aunts, uncles, Dad and Grandma) hefting back their drinks of choice. I still have that camera. I remember one year I got a model of the Red Baron's biplane.
Every year, Grandma McDonald was always good for socks and screwdrivers. One of my aunts, and I cannot remember which one, always gave each of us kids a story book of Life Saver candies.
Thing is, I don't remember most of the gifts I received from Santa, Mom, Dad or other relatives. As I put that tree up, one fake branch after another, round and round, one at a time, I pondered on those Christmases past.
And, by the time I was done wrapping the red lights around that fake green tree, the real gifts were not the things I got each and every year. Like I said, while I have a pretty-darned-good memory, I don't remember the things. I remember the people, the places, the faces, the songs, the food, the smells and all the commotion.
On Christmas Eve, our tradition was to go to the McDonald's home. There, Grandpa McDonald would make sure to tell us no reindeer, not even Rudolph, had better land on his roof, or he'd "shoot 'em." The front door was always opening and closing. Family members and friends would come in throughout the day and all through the night. Sooner or later somebody would start singing Christmas carols and then everybody would sing. There was lots of hugging and laughter.
After opening presents Christmas morning, it was off to Dad's side. Memories there are not as vivid. We went to Grandma's house on Wisconsin Street in Detroit, before she moved to an apartment in Westland. Some years we went to Uncle Terry's, other years to Aunt Pat's.
I do remember one Christmas at Aunt Pat's. I got scolded pretty good on greeting Uncle Terry and Aunt Dee as they entered the Kessler home. "You're having another baby!" I exclaimed to Aunt Dee . . . she was carrying around my seventh cousin who would arrive to this world via her womb, Sean. (Greasing the skids, or Clearing the way for Sean were his siblings Michael, Mark, Brian, Tim, Terry, and Kathleen.)
There are a ton of other Christmas memories and stories I could tell, but I guess the point is, this weekend I took a path less traveled in my mind and felt good about it.
Funny, on Monday morning when I opened my e-mail at work, I received this note from Lake Orion's Bill Kalmar. It just goes to show, timing is everything.
"Hi Don - wonder if you might have room for this. It is from our11-year-old grandson Jacob Harris. Bill"
The Real Meaning of Christmas
By Jacob Harris
Christmas isn't about the gifts, the tree, or the lights. Christmas is about family. Being together is all you need for a perfect Christmas. A few years ago, while everyone was getting ready for Christmas, we got a call. My aunt had broken her ankle while getting ready for the holidays. That meant we couldn't go there for Christmas Eve like we always do.
I was upset. I've always loved going there. We were still able to go to our grandparent's for Christmas, but not with the whole family. That's what we really cared about, but there was nothing we could do. We set up the tree, decorated and wrapped gifts, but it all kind of lost meaning. That was what I love about Christmas, but it wasn't the same. I wanted to be with the whole family.
Christmas Eve came, but in a different way. We went to Mass, but without our cousins. Afterwards, we went home and had fun but it was not the same.
We still got gifts and had a Christmas meal. However, I realized it's not about gifts, it's about family, because family is the only thing you need for a perfect Christmas!
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Merry Christmas, Happy Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, or whatever else you may celebrate. Share your love.
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org