Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Letters

I like getting Holiday letters from friends and family. Last week we got a holiday letter from one of Kathy’s daughters, as is her tradition, and as I read it I savored every carefully chosen word, every line, as I always do when I read her letters. She has a way with words that captures their playful essence beautifully, and in true holiday fashion, she sums up the year’s highlights with vivid images of shared love, laughter, and visual treats. I remember when we were growing up in Nigeria how we always looked forward to receiving “Christmas letters” from friends and family flung far and wide. I remember how my parents, especially my mother, savored them. She loved a good summary of life. Dad typed a few of the letters, which was rare, and his way of summing up our lives for their readers was always fun to compare to mother’s.  A line or two about each of us children, a paragraph or two about the adventures of “African life,” details of teaching and learning and always a few to perfectly capture a delightful personality who had become part of their social or professional network. 

Christmas in Africa was very different than in America in some ways. The sun shone brightly, and often we swam on Christmas Day, after early morning gift sharing, and shared sentiments of the meaning of the season and all we were thankful for.  It seemed a little strange to see our spindly fake fir shining with tinsel and shiny ornaments in the warm weather and being steeped in Perry Como and Bing Crosby’s I’m dreaming of a White Christmas. Yet it would have also seemed strange not to have it, and not to hear our parents’ familiar songs. We were always reminded of being blessed to have so much when so many had/have so little. My brother Mike was especially conscious of this even as a very small child.

This year has been a year full of changes.  I’m amazed that we are ending December in our calendar year already! I’m amazed that 2011 is upon us. I marvel that the weather stations report record storms and cold throughout the country. What do I remember most fondly about this year? So many moments, so many memories. Right now I remember Thanksgiving with family, and my little niece Banner, the cutest princess in the world, living her charmed life with total joy and the enchantment of being a princess in this big world. Her full-teeth smile which holds such joy as my brother calls to her, Hey Hollywood! This way! as she sashays by in her outfit complete with matching sunglasses. My Aunt, my mother’s twin, like a wonderful image of Mom alive and laughing, as they did together, and my Uncle, the consummate host and steady keeper-of-the-house. This Thanksgiving I met my new little cousin “Baby Henry” for the first time. What a doll. He is constantly in my mind’s eye now, as I get reminders of his growing and smiling, rolling and giggling. I remember driving in October and picking up my sister at the Airport, then going on to Birmingham where we visited Mike and his family. It was a wonderful “reunion” of sorts, and included a first-time visit to the missionary family reunion at Shocco Springs in Alabama. The annual missionary reunion included the traditional memorial tributes, this year Mom’s being part of the line-up. My sister and I, with a borrowed GPS, found a few spots to visit, and we sang our hearts out with childhood songs we had sung which had been triggered in our memory at the reunion. We laughed so hard we cried, and once or twice almost had to pull off the road. Some moments can never be truly appreciated except by those personalities present in the moment and on that memory node! I remember going to Birmingham on my birthday, where I saw my triplet brother then drove with my niece (home from college) to Houston, where I saw my triplet sister! Seeing them in different states on our birthday! What a treat!

Best of all is the gift of continuing to "Know Thyself" as I experience and share life and the knowledge that inspires me to continuing learning and growing in love. Today the sky is gray, the squirrels are busy, and the birds flit around from tree to tree, from bird feeder to fence post. Paperwork awaits, the coffee is delicious, and my thankfulness is infinite. Thank you friends and family, and all of my human family, known and as yet unknown. Happy holidays, and may we all create and enjoy a very happy New Year!

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