Early one morning in mid-December I received a call from my youngest sister Mary. She was filling out a questionnaire focused on childhood Christmas memories as preparation for a game my sister-in-law made for our December family gathering. Mary was struggling to answer the questions and she was calling to pick my brain.
Mary was seven years old when our mother died; she has no early childhood memories of family Christmas traditions. The question “What did you have for breakfast on Christmas morning?” drew a blank for her.
But just the day before, I also struggled with the questions. I was six years older than Mary when our mom died, so I think about the two childhoods I had: the one before, and the one that followed that sad event. There were assumptions made in the questions themselves. I realized that the simple Christmases my family had were very different from the ones my sister-in-law had. She did not know how strange a question like “how many presents do you remember each of you got on Christmas?” was for me.
What I remember most about my Christmas celebrations was the fun we had just being together. Since money was always hard to come by, our parents focused on the time we had with one another: the time together was the big present. Having time with both parents for the whole day, having fun, relatives visiting for a drink or a cookie, are the most vivid memories I have.
The start of a new year is a good time to choose to focus our lives on each moment we have. We can ask ourselves: what it is we wish to make of our one precious life, as Mary Oliver invites us to do. What precious memories will you make in 2023?