Archive for December, 2009

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The Value of Friendship

2009/12/23

It’s funny how people come and go through our lives sometimes. If you are really lucky, you get to spend a lifetime in the company of someone you can call your friend, but most of the time they are passing ships in the night. They come into your life on a breeze of whimsy, and one day you realize just how long it’s been since you last saw them. It’s just the nature of our transient lives, I guess. Jobs, relationships, the vagaries of fate, they all ebb and flow around us, bringing people in and taking them away with the same twist.

Long ago I learned to accept this part of life. I make sure to treasure the time I have been given with someone, and I am always sure to let them know what they mean to me. Their time in my life is often short, but I never want anyone to walk away from their time with me without letting them know how I feel. I never want them to question their value in or to my life. And while I am sad when our ways have to part, I am glad for the time they gave to me.

Friendship is a tricky thing. To create a level of trust between strangers, sometimes greater than that of our own family, is a dangerous minefield. But the rewards can be so incredible that we are willing to risk it all for that one opportunity. Two people thrown together by chance, developing a bond of friendship that can withstand the pressures of the world around them is a beautiful and often overlooked thing. And one that can last for years on end is more precious and valuable than the most perfect gem.

I learned the value of friendship from my mother. I always wondered at the way she could welcome others into her heart without a moment’s hesitation, always be glad for their company, even when years and miles separated her from them. And I spent a significant portion of my life witnessing one of those rare and precious friendships that spanned a lifetime. My mother and her best friend shared their lives and their hearts and their families with one another. So much so that the lines became blurred, and it was hard to tell the difference for those around them.

I was a teenager before I discovered, completely by accident, that my godmother was not my mother’s sister. While doing a project in my Spanish class, I innocently asked, “So, where do I put Aunt Lu and Uncle Tommy on our family tree?” My mother’s family was unique, and I had always assumed that Aunt Lu was just another sibling in Mom’s bizarre chain of family relations. After all, we spent holidays together, we took vacations together, they visited my great grandmother, they took care of my brother and me when our baby brother was born…how could they not be family? And Mom told me that sometimes, if you are very lucky, you will have a friend who is so special that they can become your family. My Mom, and in turn, our family, was blessed with this kind of luck.

That blessing was also extended to me. I have shared much of my lifetime with a very good friend. And though the miles and our hectic lives have often come between us, when we get that all too brief time together, it’s almost as though no time has passed, and we’ve been there all the while. The comfort and support that can be found in a friendship such as ours truly is a gift, and I count myself fortunate for every moment.

My reflective side was triggered this morning thanks to the birthday of another treasured friend. He is one of those bright shining lights in this world, bringing sunshine and comfort wherever he goes. From the moment he came bounding in my life, I have felt blessed. He’s been struggling through a series of difficult transitions lately, but he never seems to fail in finding the light in everything, and his smile warms the hearts of everyone around him.

I wish for him, on this anniversary of his blessed birth, a lifetime of sharing that marvelous heart with the world, so that his joy for life can go out and come back to him in the form of the love of the many friends he has delighted through his time with us on this earth. And to all my friends, both near and far, both present and past, and all those friendships yet to be had, may the love you give in the name of friendship be returned to you tenfold through the friends you make.

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The Ghosts of Christmas

2009/12/20

As a child, this time of year was always filled with anticipation. Waiting for school to get out, wishing for that one special gift, looking for a white Christmas and trying desperately to get just one more cookie before Mom cut me off. I loved every wondrous and anxious moment of it. Playing in the snow until Mom forced me inside, listening to older family members tell stories of Christmas when they were children and all the sweet treats I had been dreaming about were everywhere. It was all about what was to come. The wonder and majesty of the season revolved around getting to the next step.

As a teenager, I discovered the joy of “Winter Break.” It was that magical time when there was no school, a ton of movies to see and a herd of friends to enjoy that freedom with. There were countless adventures to be had and we did them all together. It was also time to get reacquainted with the family. During the regular school year there was always so much going on, that it was easy to forget there were other people in the house when you left at dawn and got home just before curfew everyday. Getting up on a weekday morning to share a bowl of Apple Jacks with my baby sister and listen to my brothers work out their strategy for optimum lift and speed for sledding on Holly Hill that day was a precious chance to be in their lives again. Being a teenager during the holidays was about slowing down long enough appreciate what I had as I worked on what was to come.

In my twenties, the holidays became a series of rushes. A rush to get more hours, to get more done, to get ahead. At that point, life was rushing by and it took my complete attention to make it all work. You live completely in the moment then, just trying to make it to the end of the day. The only way I knew it was Christmas was when old friends showed up for their annual visit home, and that one precious day off to share with my family the fruits of my labors. The other kids were finally growing up, leaving only my baby sister as a teenager, but we all made the time to share Christmas Day together, because it was important. It was one day where we could stop and reflect on the previous year, and on our shared past. One day, in a busy life, where we were still our parents’ children and we could remember why that made us feel so good.

When my thirties rolled around, the holidays changed again. Now there were children running everywhere, and the wonder and majesty of the season could be seen reflecting through their eyes. The excitement was back, and I found myself anticipating the big day again. Seeing them dance and sing with each snow storm, hearing them rattle off their wish lists and dirtying up the house together making cookies or presents or decorations brought all the magic back. It also gave me a chance to share my memories of childhood with them. Telling them the story of how their Dad spent so long in the snow building a fort he almost had frostbite on his butt, or how their Mom would spent hours trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue, or the times they were so excited for Christmas they didn’t trust each other not to sneak downstairs first, so they camped out in one bedroom with sleeping bags, giggling all night long as they waited for the sun to rise. And just like that, the holidays became about anticipation and living in the moment and remembering the past, all at once.

I’ll spend some time today wrapping presents for the kids and thinking about their reactions. I’ll take a little time to work out the feast prep game plan with my mother. I’ve been spending time with friends, both old and new, sharing the moment together and enjoying their company. And later, much like I am now, I will reflect on the holidays past, and take joy from the memories shared over a lifetime.

May the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future always haunt your life, so you will never forget the real meanings of the season.

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Life Gets in the Way

2009/12/07

I’ve been trying really hard to keep a once a week schedule with this blog, but that was interrupted last week. The reason for that is simple…life gets in the way.

This is an insanely busy time for most people, and I am no different. Where I diverge from the pack is that my “holiday season” begins in October. Every year for the last six, I help organize the annual Halloween Party at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a fair amount of work pulling it together every year. Usually I get a short break after that, but this year I helped with the museum’s annual gala as well. The reason for this was the guest of honor; Harrison Ford. After much wrangling and a lot of wishful thinking, we were able to get him to also sign the X-Wing before he left for the night. It was a serious high-point in my work with the museum, and we raised a considerable sum of money to keep the doors open and the programs running.

Then we are headlong into November, and that means Thanksgiving, and for me, it also means birthdays. It would appear that the people in my family are BIG fans of Spring, because there are ten birthdays in my immediate family starting from the middle of November and going well into January. Throw in Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah and New Years (all holidays people in my life celebrate), plus the birthdays of a few godchildren and cousins, and you’ve got one seriously insane ride for about three months every year.

Now, you also have to add in holiday parties (both the company kind and the friends kind), and shopping, and friends coming in from out of town, and end of year stuff at work, and charity projects, and side work, and…. I think you get the idea, right? Basically, busy doesn’t even begin to cover it around this time of year.

It takes some serious effort to just sit down and write about the things going on in my head, or really, any kind of writing other than that stuff I get paid for. So, when I get a few minutes to try and collect those thoughts, I have to remind myself to be grateful for being so insanely busy this time of year.

Why should I be grateful for such a hectic way of life? That’s easy!

  • I am grateful I have a mother who volunteers me for any number of tasks, because it means she is here and alive and contributing to my life.
  • I am grateful that I have all these siblings who demand my attention with their troubles and woes, because it means they are including me in their lives and blessing me with the joy of their children.
  • I am grateful that my work is demanding so much of my focus, even when the drama hits a high, or my projects hit a snag, because it means I have a job that pays my bills and affords me the luxury of health insurance and a roof over my head when so many others have none of that.
  • I am grateful that my time is stretched to the absolute limits with the demands of so many projects, because it means that I am alive and well and able to contribute to my community in ways both great and small.
  • And I am grateful for those few precious moments when I can sit down and put all of those thoughts into words and share them with others.

Thank you for giving me something else to be grateful for, and may each of you find yourselves at a loss for time when life gets in your way. Happy Holidays to All!

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