To the point week of 12-27-07


AS I WRITE THIS, I’m sitting in our family living room and it’s Christmas night. Scattered around the room are remnants of wrapping paper, some empty shopping bags, and various packages that range from stocking stuffers to boxes filled with heavy pieces of furniture.

Everyone’s lounging around trying to recover from all of the food that was sampled throughout the day, and a few dishes are still stacked in the kitchen sink. The kids (and their parents) are tired and cranky from some Christmas travel; and a couple of naps have already been taken.

My wife begins some cleanup, starting with the large trash bag that we used earlier in the day to collect all of the torn wrapping paper. A bow here, a tag there. An empty shirt box over there.

If Christmas morning is the most magical time of the year – then Christmas night is a time of mixed emotions.

Each of us look around the room at all of the gifts that we spent hours shopping for. We remember the hassle of the long lines that we stood in; the grouchy store clerks who could have cared less about our search; and the countless hours of sleep that we lost while on our quest to find those gifts.

We also see our “victories”.

You know – those gifts that we did find. Those gifts that we didn’t have to compromise. Those gifts that we tell other people stories about. Maybe it was a particular toy for a child or grandchild. Maybe it was that sweater that was the perfect size and the right color and was also on sale. We all have that, “….I got the very last one….” story.

But now, as I sit and write this, I pause for a moment and turn my attention back to my living room.

It’s over.

Christmas is over.

At least December 25th is over.

All that work. All that lost sleep. All those bills. All those ulcers.

And now it’s over.

National statistics say that the average person spent $859 on Christmas presents this year. Remember: that’s an average, which means half of us spent twice that much.

We started on “Black Friday”, and pushed right on through to Christmas Eve. The Indianapolis Star even told readers of its Christmas edition that they could go to the shops at the airport and still find gifts.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

Advertisers helped children demand toys that were impossible to find. Internet sites helped solve the impossible – but for a price, of course. We all got caught up in buying presents – and presents – because as the calendar wound down, we switched gears from finding the right gift to finding any gift, because there just had to be something under the tree.

Parents looked for gifts that they didn’t even understand. One woman hunted for a “Wii” in the doll department ( a completely different kind of ‘wee’, but she didn’t know that). We spent money and more money and ran up charge card balances in our race to satisfy our kids.

Quick: raise your hand if at some point during the holiday season, you made this statement:

“I really don’t know why I’m buying them anything, because they don’t need anything.”

(Editor’s hand is in the air).

One of the great traditions of our newspaper is that each year in the issue prior to Christmas, Bill “Poor Will” Felker includes an old story written by our county’s Naomi Bliss about Christmas when she was a child.

Haven’t read it? Find last week’s paper and see page six.

She talks about getting a sugar cookie and maybe some shoes if hers had holes in them. She said that when times were good, her father gave everyone a nickel – which she turned into a new hair ribbon or hard candy. She talked about making a walnut last all day.

She talked about things that we and our children could never understand.

But if you look past the items of Christmas, I believe that what Naomi Bliss really teaches us is that Christmas isn’t about “stuff” – it’s about us.

It’s about spending time with family; visiting friends and neighbors; sharing a meal; making some memories.

I had the opportunity on Christmas day to spend it with my family: my wife and daughters all through the day; and my parents, brothers, and their families during the afternoon. We laughed and told stories and opened gifts. But what we mainly did was spend time together.

My four-year old nephew donned the Santa hat and bellowed a hearty “Ho! Ho! Ho!”. My niece showed off her new Christmas outfits (all pink); and my older nephew showed off his two new front teeth. (An unfortunate encounter while trying to shoe a horse).

Grandma and Grandpa sat back and watched the havoc – and all in all it was a great day.

But for those of us who are lucky enough to have family to share the holiday with – we should also be knowledgeable enough to understand that it doesn’t have to be contained to only one day.

So my New Year’s wish to each of you is to remember what’s really important about Christmas – and then keep it close to your heart all year long.

Because toys break and clothing fades – but family and friendship last forever.