Christmas and What We Leave Behind

How it is that such seemingly small events can take root and blossom at precisely the right moments! What seems so offhand, so casual can, in the end, lead you so far along the path you need to travel!

Some years back—a rough guess would be somewhere between ten and  dozen years ago—at a family gathering the question was posed of all present regarding what they enjoyed most about Christmas. There were, of course, the expected answers: getting to spend time with friends and family, having fun with dance and music, enjoying good food and so on. My brother-in-law Darrell’s response, though, was the one that stood out: watching his kids opening their gifts.

At the time, other than to note its uniqueness I did not give it a whole lot of thought.  Since then, though, with each passing year, that sentiment becomes more and more meaningful as I see more and more of what it implies.

It’s been said that the only things we leave behind are our acts, particularly those done in the spirit of love and kindness. What’s more, the system can’t be gamed; we may, in our foolishness, try and craft some lasting image by controlling what’s been said and written about us but it’s to no avail. People will learn of, and speak, the truth after we’ve gone and the barriers built from fear and intimidation have crumbled. Perhaps we may even donate money to various causes in the hopes that their works will come to reflect on us. In truth, though, that, too, serves little more than to satisfy an immature ego. Once we’re gone that carefully crafted veneer too will fade, the edifice will vanish. Either way what’s left behind will only be our deeds and their effects.

How fitting that this time of year is the one in which the birth of one so significant in history is celebrated! Such a modest entrance—a young mother and a humble, poor father and forced to start it off in such squalid surroundings. A life lived simply too, and no physical record remaining of his very existence. No palace, no park, not so much as a stone monument. Nothing at all left to moulder and decay in the bitter light that follows the passing of one thought to be so great.

But the deeds; always acts of kindness and love; done with courage and intended to bring just one simple message: make this a world where love and justice reign supreme. You may wonder, sometimes, just who’s listening but then again, perhaps these are just random ramblings.

It’s getting late, after all. What must they think—anyone passing by my house this time of night and seeing through the living room window that my Christmas tree lights are still turned on. In the faint glow there can be seen a solitary figure of a middle aged man typing intently on a laptop. What’s he doing? Shouldn’t he be in bed at this hour?

Let them think, however briefly. After all they, too, have concerns to deal with: gifts, obligations, debt; whatever. Their minds will drift back to what’s important to them soon enough. I am simply enjoying a few quiet moments by the tree, thinking of my yesterdays and how they flow into my tomorrows.

Gifts have been placed beneath the tree and everyone else is in bed, hopefully asleep. Perhaps they are thinking of opening gifts tomorrow but their thoughts, acting as they are in the unpredictable domain of sleep are likely less than focused right at this moment. My children are dealing with young adulthood now and, so, childlike thoughts of a man dressed in red bringing gifts have long since faded from their realities, except for the times when nostalgia stirs the awakening of some of the same impressions and feelings that I am enjoying right now. It’s an ebb and flow now though and the current is moving fast. For them, the transformation from Christmas as a time of receiving to being a time of giving is well underway but they’re nowhere past the point at which an unexpected gift can still evoke a sense of delight.

I can well imagine some of it happening in just a few hours.

Right now there’s just the sound of the clock in the kitchen. I close my eyes for a few moments and let each tick advance, slideshow fashion, images from past Christmas mornings: packages opened with wonderment and delight; squeals of joy and visions of glowing happy faces chattering away to me, showing me some of the wonderful things that Santa had thoughtfully left by the tree: a game console, a handheld, games, toys, books; whatever.

A little flash of turned-off lights outside signals that Mike, my neighbour across the street, has just packed it in for the night. It’s about time for me to do the same.

But not quite yet—I close my eyes again and think about continuity. For just a moment I’m taken back to a time, long since passed, when I, too, would eagerly await the coming of Christmas morning. Another tick of the clock and I recall my Dad telling me of when he was a boy and how they’d find treats of oranges in their stockings. Oranges! So far removed from the piles of clothes and electronic delights that are now the staples. Another tick and I am back in the present. It’s time for bed. After all I need to be awake enough tomorrow to drive out to the in-laws for Christmas dinner, followed by a few days of fun with the extended family.

I let my eyes close again, just one last time. Perhaps it’s sleep creeping up on me, but this time I see nothing. I just get a thought, one that comes without any sensory accompaniment; as such, just a fleeting impression. What of the days ahead—will there be a time when my own children get to share a quiet moment like this one, just themselves, the tree and that quiet but powerful link, wrought from our deeds, between the past and the future and maybe come to marvel on the connection between getting and giving? One can hope. Hope, yes…but, perhaps, that’s for another time.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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20 Responses to Christmas and What We Leave Behind

  1. seeker says:

    Wonderful reflection. Times changed indeed what goes inside the stockings. I’m pretty sure your parents have thought of quiet moments similar to you and your children will have the same reflection about their children. Merry Christmas, Maurice.

  2. It really is so simple: “make this a world where love and justice reign supreme.” Well said, that in the end, all that will matter, is what we did or did not do to fulfill that one mission.

  3. Marie says:

    Merry Christmas, Maurice. I hope the day was a happy confection of family and festivities.

  4. Mary says:

    I hope as Darrell said you did get to enjoy watching your children open the gifts you so carefully wrapped for them. I know we certainly enjoyed opening the lovely presents you and Josephine sent all the way across the country! They were like little kids again ..thank you.

  5. Ah Maurice. You know that I view each of your contributions with delight. But this one was special however. So much resonates – perhaps because we are of an age and situation, or simply because we muse about the same sorts of things. I appreciate the concept of continuity. I think of it much when considering what it is I have ‘paid forward,’ or not. You say that once we are gone, ‘ … what’s left behind will only be our deeds and their effects.’ I suppose this is indeed the time of year that one tends to think about such things. Over the course of our lives we don’t think about that legacy we are forming and which we will leave behind. We don’t think about it when in-the-thick-of-it … too much going on – we’re too focused at the time – in the heat of it all. It is much later, now in both our cases, that such thoughts arise. Not, I think, because we fear the end or feel that it is near, but perhaps because we think that the time to form our individual legacies has past. What do they say … the die is cast. Am I pleased with what I have wrought? In some ways. In other ways, I think I could have done better. Can I make up for the insufficiencies of a lifetime? No, I do not think so. We look back and ahead at the same time. We go forward, as always, trying to do what we know is right … all the time trying to make the world just a little bit better. Existential thoughts such as these are perhaps better considered late at night … here I am trying to think about my legacy as the sun casts its rays on the hillside to the north, out our kitchen window. This is the first time we have seen the sun for weeks (literally). Perhaps today will be a good day. Thanks for your thoughtful sentiments. They have made me think … and that is good. D

    • Sounds like your December was similar to ours. We had mild temperatures and very little snow (less than 5 cm so far). The price, though, was very little sun. I’ll take that any day, though! I am glad that you enjoyed the piece. Yes, we have very much in common and while “vive la difference’ is a wonderful thing it’s a treat to encounter like-minded others such as you!

  6. tw says:

    Merry Christmas Maurice. Your reflections on past, present and future are, I think, what matters most. Memories of those who have helped shaped us, hopes for those we help to shape now and in future. Here’s to many more happy years ahead.

  7. Tiny says:

    I really enjoyed your wonderful reflections, Maurice! Like you, I sat up alone late into the Christmas night seeing Christmases past, and just enjoying the peace and quiet, the lights of the tree and the familiar smells of my childhood Christmas foods (I always make those). It is indeed a good time to reflect on the effect of our deeds…and on the message of Christmas, which for me is condensed into one sentence “Christmas is love in action”. It has so many meanings both spiritually and humanly. Happy continuation of the 12 days of Christmas to you and your whole family, Maurice.

  8. Maurice I could see you sitting there, such a gentle piece and I loved this sentence………….. thinking of my yesterdays and how they flow into my tomorrows. Beautiful. Thank you.

  9. margber says:

    Absolutely loved this, Maurice. I hope your Christmas was winderful!

  10. elkement says:

    Maurice, you have once commented – in a discussion about why we blog – that people blog to express or to impress. It is very clear from this post that you write to express. Introspective meditation at its finest! And hoping for a long live of the free WP blogging platform your thoughts will be conserved for ages to come.

    Happy belated New Year!

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