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Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas presence

Last week I drove 300+ miles to Cleveland, Ohio to go Christmas shopping at Target, JC Penney, Sears, and Bed Bath & Beyond -- all stores that I could drive to before 2 songs pass on the radio at home.

Mike pointed out that fact when I called him from my Aunt Susie and Uncle Howie's house to update him on my progress on the annual Christmas shopping trip with my mom and her sisters in my Aunt Susie's town of Strongsville, Ohio.

I'm guessing this tradition started about 25 years ago as a way to help my NaNa shop for the kids, grandkids and eventually the great grands. Since NaNa passed away three years ago, my PaPa goes instead. Anyone who has graduated from high school or who is not walking yet is welcome to come.

We figured the most number of people who've ever been on the trip is 11. That must have been NaNa; my mom; aunts Connie, Susie, Bonni; me, my sisters Angie & Shelley; and my cousins Teresa and Tina. I'm still one short, but I'm not sure who I'm missing. Anyway, this year was a pretty small group. Aunt Susie, Uncle Howie, PaPa, my mom and I. (I should note that Howie is always there, but he tries to avoid most of the shopping part). My Aunt Connie is undergoing chemo and didn't feel up to the trip and Aunt Bonni couldn't get the time off work.

When I heard that the group was going to be so small this year, I gave some thought to not going. I wasn't planning to buy that much anyway. Up until about an hour or so before I was supposed to leave, I was still debating whether or not to go. I'm so glad I did.

I drove to my folks' house in Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday night. I stayed up too late talking to my mom, as usual. Then in the morning, she and I headed to pick up PaPa. When we arrived at his house around 9am, he was waiting -- with Schuler's chocolate bismarck donuts! This is definitely part of the tradition.

In the first five minutes at PaPa's house, I was so happy that I decided to come on the trip. I felt overwhelmingly grateful to be there with my 86-year-old grandfather who is the sweetest person I know. I got teary just feeling my heart swell up with love for him, though some of those tears were also for how much being with PaPa made me miss my NaNa.

The time away also gave me a chance to spend time with my mom, which I don't get to do often enough, and my Aunt Susie and Uncle Howie. They came to Indianapolis for my 40th birthday party in August, but with so many people there I didn't have much time to spend visiting with them.

So yes, I did drive more than 600 miles (roundtrip) to go to stores I could have reached in about 5 minutes. But this trip was not just about buying Christmas presents. It was really about savoring Christmas presence.

Who would you like to give some Christmas presence to? Can you make that happen?


kimybeee said...

i really miss my maternal grandparents this time of year. when my grandma died in feb of '91, the family really fell apart. i was just talking with my sister the other day about how wonderful it was to spend christmas with the whole family every year when we were young. my mom is one of eleven and probably 8 or 9 of them and all their kids would gather at grandma and grandpas on christmas day. we always had tons of great food and all of us cousins would play football or just enjoy visiting. i hate that my kids will never experience that large family gathering that i remember so fondly.

my husband is also really feeling the stress of the holidays. i didn't realize how much until this evening, but now that i am sharing the burden, it has taken a lot of wind out of my sails when it comes to holiday enthusiam.

i am glad you got to spend so much quality time with your mom and your papa - those will be memories that you will cherish forever!!

kbiermom said...

my grandpa and yours look like they are cut from the same cloth - always a twinkle in the eye :) If I could drive 300 -- even 3000 -- miles to see my grandpa today, I would. But I will celebrate the day with a twinkle in my eye as if he were with me :)

Sharon said...

I think it's so beautiful that you do this, Amy.
I wish I had the means to be present w/ more family members. I'd love to go Christmas shopping w/ my sisters (12 hours away).
What great memories you are making!

Fiorella said...

A beautiful post that I think resonates with many. Traditions are a wonderful anchor for times when you feel like you are swinging in the wind.

Eternal Lizdom said...

Great post, Amy! When I hear people complaining about not feeling the holiday spirit... they usually start complaining about shopping and gifts in the next breath and I have to stop them and see if they can't focus on the people and events rather than the money and chores of it all.

Presence instead of presents is definitely what holidays are really all about!