Metro-East News

Cherish your Christmas memories, but don’t get stuck in the past

“Don’t let the past steal your present. This is the message of Christmas: we are never alone.”

Taylor Caldwell, American author 1900-85

I was sitting with friends last weekend at an early celebration over on the farm in Missouri. There had been mounds of food on the table and piles of dessert following. No one felt much like moving.

But we could still talk. The conversation came around to some of the older folks we used to have at the gatherings. My in-laws would invite all the older local people for Christmas dinner and anyone who didn’t have any place to go would come.

They are all gone now, and we were surprised to find that we have taken their places.

“You know, we are the older generation now,” one friend remarked.

Now, there’s some responsibility.

When I was a kid I heard about some of the hardships the older generation grew up with. At our Christmas pageants, the churches always gave away bag of goodies and each one always included an orange. I always wondered, why an orange?

My mother explained that it used to be that getting an orange was a rare treat and the people that donated the stuff for the bags always wanted an orange in there, maybe to remember the moments from their pasts.

When we had the older generation for Christmas on the farm, there were always stories and laughter. There were traditions that never died, at least as long as someone remembers them.

When it came time to open gifts, my wife’s grandpa, Grandpa Chicken we called him, because of his 2,000 laying hens, always tried to get everyone to open one present at a time so he could see what everyone got.

That would work for a couple of gifts until the smaller kids got impatient with excitement and tore into the wrapped boxes.

Someone usually got a picture of a gift from a catalog because Grandma Chicken didn’t get the gift ordered in time.

Every year it’s a new Christmas. That older generation isn’t around anymore. Time grinds on. It’s sad, but I know they wouldn’t want their absences to spoil the season.

Remember fondly, but don’t get bogged down in memories. Set your own traditions. There is too much past to let it drag down what is to come. Cherish the good.

Put the presents under an artificial tree if you like. Use cloth bags that are reusable instead of wrapping paper. Embrace gift cards. Make Christmas a day when everyone can get together instead of just Dec. 25.

Have an orange and think about what a rare treat it used to be. Have a merry Christmas.