Charlie Harper: Christmas presence, and absence

December 23, 2013 

It's Christmas time. There will be no politics in this week's "political" column. Despite the wishes of "some," I don't recommend showing up at Christmas dinner with an agenda to be discussed. This is not the time.

For children, it's a magical time of enchantment, dreams, and of course -- presents. For those with children in the household, they are of course the focus of the holiday. Lists have been checked and amazingly all the children seem to pull off a mention on the "nice" list by Christmas morning.

We spend most of the young ones' childhoods telling them Christmas isn't all about the presents, while doing our best to surround them with everything they ask for by Christmas morning. Forgive them if they don't quite understand. But they're building memories, and we are too.

As we get older, however, we start to understand. The time we spend with our families becomes less and less as some move away, and some move on. We cherish the memories of Christmas from our childhood and hope to help make some of those memories for the next generation.

But we are also missing some of those who helped make those memories. And as a result, the emotions of Christmas are often bittersweet. Roughly one-twelfth of our lives is spent between Thanksgiving and Christmas. As such, real life events affect us then too, and become part of the memories. It's not always a happy time.

Both of my grandmothers and my father passed on during the holiday season. Memories of them and knowing they no longer with us are competing feelings this time of year.

There are others who are newly missing loved ones. Several of my friends have lost family members in the past few weeks. Others are battling serious health issues. Despite all the decorations, festivities, and carols that surround us, not everyone will or can be merry this year. Say a prayer for them, and hope their Christmas gifts are ones of comfort and strength.

For those of us who aren't kids and are healthy, we generally look for Christmas gifts to be things that aren't bought in stores. We want to be close to our friends and families. We want to eat the foods that we associate with the happy times we've spent together.

Through the process, we tie the generations together. Christmas is an active exercise of the past, present, and future. We remember those who have gone before us. We fulfill the wishes of those who will be here after us. And we spend time making new memories while remembering old ones with those around us.

Whatever you will be celebrating this holiday season, make time to be there when you do. There are gifts that are better for those you love and those who love you than can be found at the best stores or were the best Black Friday deals. They are things such as time, attention, and presence.

The electronic devices need to be turned off for a bit. There are folks you will spend time with who probably have excellent stories. If not -- make some up. Because every day is a gift, and a day with the most special people in your life should be the best of those gifts. But it requires some active participation.

It's not about the presents under the tree. It's about the presence around the table, and in the living room, and maybe hanging out around the kitchen counter or on the back porch.

Christmas memories are about being there. Wherever you are and whoever you're with this week, do your best to be there.

That's the best way to have a merry Christmas. My best to you and yours.

Charlie Harper, author and editor of the Peach Pundit blog, writes on Georgia politics and government; www.peachpundit.com.

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