My 2013 Christmas season has been unremarkable. Actually, it has been somewhat dreary. I got a $30 parking ticket for parking in a restricted lot, which while totally my fault and deserved, boiled by blood. Mix that in with a usually hectic season I have been feeling a little Grinchy. I’m mindful that things could be a whole, whole lot worse but, like most adults, I’m searching for the elusive magic that was part of my childhood Christmas celebrations. Jung said coming to consciousness never results without pain. Sure enough, coming to adult awareness has resulted in the disappearance of childhood joy and the appearance of a painful adult sense of responsibility. Welcome to growing up and becoming an adult, huh?
Our society has deeply rewarded some of us with the most affluent lifestyle in history. We fortunate ones want for nothing in terms of our basic needs. We go to bed with full stomachs, have decent houses, reasonably good health care and are living longer than any preceding generation. As my grandfather said, “I never worried about my bed until my stomach was full.” A lot of us have really full stomachs and worry constantly about the other things in our lives. In the movie “Field of Dreams,” one of the characters counsels the protagonist, “build the field ... they will come, John ... they will come ... it’s money they have, it’s peace they want.” It’s peace we want and it’s the Christmas season that makes this introspection more acute and our expectations unmet.
A post I saw on Facebook really is appropriate and totally descriptive of Americans who are my age. It reads: “I think as you grow older your Christmas list gets small and the things you really want for the holidays can’t be bought.” We all are searching for the stuff we can’t buy. The things we can buy have already been bought and really don’t make us all that happy. These kind of dark ruminations were running through my mind recently as I was trying to keep up with my 13-month-old grandson, Leo.
He doesn’t care about Christmas and his expectations are pretty basic. Food, a bottle, and a clean diaper make him pretty happy. Throw in a nap and the kid will go forever. I’m in decent shape but he really can out-energize me and can sorely challenge my patience. I have resorted to blocking off the room so he can roam about it at will and I can lay down on the floor and not have to chase him. I’ve come to realize why you have kids at 25 and not 65. Anyway, a few days ago he was doing his usual circuit around the room and I was in my usual prone position thinking how wonderful human development was and how remarkable we as humans are. Leo was walking and attempting to communicate all the while exercising his legs and lungs. Clearly, we have made strides as an organism on a collective level and Leo has made them on an individual level. In the midst of his usual circuit training, Leo picked up his bottle, stuck it in his mouth and rested his head on my shoulder. In a few seconds, he was asleep secure in this grandfather’s presence and bony shoulder.
Not a big deal for Leo, but for me it was an epiphany about love for another and how that is related to the Christian concept of the birth of Christ. Christian tradition teaches we Christians that the incarnation of Christ was the physical manifestation of God’s love for us. Christian, non-Christian or atheist, the presence of a grandchild and his trust in his grandparent should be a soul-stirring event and should confirm in him the importance of not only being loved, but the greater importance of loving. It did in me.
Elder grandson Henry, Leo and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year and we thank you for sharing your time.
Gary DeSantis is a Meadville resident and author of a recently published book titled “The 6th Floor.”