Gift of the Season

Twas a time close to Christmas, that season so manic,

When good aunts and uncles were starting to panic,

The family perused all the kids’ lists with care,

But grandparents dear had already been there,

The questions were spinning in everyone’s brains,

“Have they got this?” and “Can we beat those supply chains?”

So Scott at his keyboard let out a quick yelp,

And messaged his sisters just one quick word – “Help!”

 OK, so I’m not Clement Clarke Moore. But the fact remains: my parents are way too good at the Santa Claus thing.

To be fair, they’ve got a lot more experience and much closer proximity. For the last few years, my folks have lived in Washington State, just within shouting distance of my sisters’ children. This was not a coincidence. When it comes to attractive force, a trio of young grandkids has enough power to pull meteors out of their course, so Mom and Dad didn’t stand a chance.

It’s great for everyone. But it does mean that very early in the holiday season, the lists of the young’uns get run over with reindeer-level force.

Thankfully, both my sisters are matchless CIA agents: Christmas Intelligence Agency, that is. Suggestions and updates were soon in my hands – or at least on my screen – along with a growing sense of déjà vu.

“He devours books like you do,” Leslie told me as we discussed my nephew Simon, “and he has a thing for books that are part of a series. And dragons. Lots of dragons right now too.”

With each item, I kept hearing echoes. I saw epic fantasies. I noticed a book about Broadway musicals. Some of the entries were things that Carey, Leslie and I were asking for back in the 1980s. Others, we would have gladly stolen a time machine to get. One thing became quickly clear: my sisters had raised ‘em right.

A second thing also grew obvious: there is no better mirror than a child’s Christmas list.

I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise. Back in 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were making a similar observation: that children and the adults who came before them are a closer reflection than either can realize:

And feed them on your dreams,

The one they pick’s the one you’ll know by…

But even with the musical warning, it still makes me blink to recognize the pieces of me and Leslie and Carey that are growing up in Ivy and Simon and Gil – with their own unique spin, of course. Seeing them takes me back to older Christmases … and makes me wonder how much of the same thing Mom and Dad saw in us then.

That’s the power of the season, I suppose. At its best, it can connect time to time and generation to generation, reaching back through years or even centuries to echo a theme. It’s a reminder that we are tied together by bonds stronger than habit or circumstance, with a little of all of us living in each other, and that there can be a love powerful enough to enfold all of it.

I know it’s not a magical time for everyone. For some, the echoes bring back more painful memories. For others, there’s a link missing in the chain, someone who should be sharing the season and isn’t there. But for all of us, it can still be a moment to listen carefully to the chords of those around us and recognize the common notes. To open doors, look past fences and see the neighbor inside.

That’s a gift to all of us. And it’s one we can always give.

No matter how many expert Santas have come before us.

And I heard him exclaim as he finished this rhyme,

“Happy Christmas to all! Now, let’s check dates on Prime …”

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