We are now in the month of December and Christmas is quickly approaching. I am in a reminiscing mood these days, so, I thought I would continue to reflect on some of my childhood memories around Christmas.
I actually have a lot of wonderful memories of Christmas growing up. I grew up in a very loving family who celebrated Christmas because of the important focus on the birth of Christ. My heritage on both my fathers and mothers side are Estonian and Christmas was a time to enjoy all the unique tasty foods of the Estonian culture. Some of my favorites were barley sausage, head cheese, sauerkraut, cream beets and an extensive offering of desserts. My mother made a dessert from cream of wheat and fruit that was a favorite of everyone. There was also the more classic Christmas turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. Every Christmas Eve we would have a huge meal with my dad’s side of the family and on Christmas day we would pretty much repeat the same meal with my mom’s side of the family. I had grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins on both sides of the family and there would be extravagant present opening at both parties.
My thoughts go back to one of these Christmas parties and something I learned from an experience I had. We arrived at my Uncles place on Christmas Eve to discover that their dog had a litter of puppies. I immediately fell in love with one of these puppies and proceeded to carry it around with me all night long. Half way through the evening I went over to my dad and I said, ‘hey dad, I would really like to take this puppy home with me, can that be my Christmas present from you and mom?’ He made it really clear that the puppy was too young to take away from its mother and he really didn’t want the responsibility of caring for a dog. I told him that I would take care of the dog but he obviously wasn’t confident that I would. The time came to leave and I was heartbroken that I couldn’t take the puppy with me. I put my jacket on and hid the puppy in my jacket. I got into the car and made my best effort to hide that fact that I had the puppy stuffed in my jacket. Obviously, I wasn’t fooling anyone, especially my dad who opened the car door and took the puppy from me. I cried all the way home thinking that life was so unfair and that my dad was really mean for not letting me have the dog. I told him that I hated Christmas and to leave me home the next time the family went to a Christmas party.
As I look back on that story I reminded that you do not always get what you want. Christmas is a time when we often do get what we want but it is not a very true picture of what life really looks like. I was so focused on that puppy that evening that I did not appreciate all of what else was going on around me. My entire family was around me as we enjoyed another amazing Christmas meal together. The cousins all played together with the same excitement that we shared whenever we were together. I have learned to not take those memories for granted. A few years after this Christmas Eve my father, my grandmother and one of my cousins all died in the same year. Our Christmas celebrations were never the same. We would continue to gather in the same way but would really feel the absence of our departed loved ones. It is so true that we do not always get what we want but it is important to acknowledge what it is that we do have. On that Christmas Eve many years ago I was so distracted by the puppy that I did not appreciate the celebration or the people that were there with me. When I had the puppy taken from me I was so distraught that I felt it ruined my night. As I look back, I would give anything to have just one more Christmas party with all my family present. Sometimes what we want can distract us from appreciating what we have. My hope is that you will not happen to you this Christmas.