Monday, December 24, 2007

Witnessing a 'Last'

It’s Christmas Eve – the kids are tucked in and the presents are wrapped. As I sit next to the glowing fireplace, I reminisce about the years of Christmas photos taken in this very same spot. There was the scene over 10 years ago – my just-turned-three-year-old daughter trying desperately to keep her new baby brother in an upright position for the camera. Then, a couple of years later when she struggled again with her new baby sister. My favorite was the one where all three wore matching Rudolf outfits. And I can’t possibly forget the one where my four-year-old son didn’t want to have his picture taken and insisted on covering his eyes with his hand. So as I sit her tonight, part of me giggles as I think about the wonderful memories we’ve made in this spot. But the other part of me feels weepy in the knowledge that in four short years, my oldest will go off into the world, making a life of her own and will likely have her own Christmas picture in front of her own fireplace. All of these thoughts remind me of just how quickly my life is flying by and how very important it is to cherish ever second if it.

I was reminded of this fact again last week. My kids had begged me to take them to our neighborhood ice rink. “Ice skating,” I thought. “That sounds like fun!” But reality smacked me in the face as I remembered all of the shopping I still needed to do, all of the cookies I still needed to bake and all of the presents I still needed to wrap. So, my first instinct was to say, “No, I have too much to do.” “Too much to do.” Honestly, there’s always too much to do though, isn’t there? But what good is all of the “doing” if we don’t have time to do the things we want to do – the things that make us happy? I wanted to take my kids ice skating – it would make me happy. What exactly was the point of all of the shopping, baking and wrapping in the first place? We do these things for the sole purpose of making others, and ourselves, happy. Ice skating would make my kids and me happy, so why would I sacrifice this happiness now for happiness hopefully gained in the future from all of the shopping, baking and wrapping?

Holiday happiness was looking me in the face, asking me to take them ice skating, so I took them ice skating. And I was glad I did for I was reminded once again to enjoy and cherish every second of my life.

The kids had just been skating for about an hour when they noticed Santa arrive.

“Santa!” I heard them cry. “Let’s go see him!”

While I expected this enthusiastic response from my seven-year-old daughter, I was surprised to hear equaled excitement from my 10-year-old son.

The kids hurried off of the ice and up to where Santa sat, greeting children. When it was my son’s turn, he eagerly approached Santa and settled himself onto Santa’s knee. My mind was thrown back eight years ago as it remembered delighting in the sight of this same child sitting on Santa’s lap for the first time. I remembered feverishly snapping photos, wanting to capture every aspect of this ‘first’ for all eternity. The ‘firsts’ always seemed so very important – the first step, the first bite of real food, the first time without training wheels. But what about the ‘lasts’? The last time using a fat pencil, the last bath in a baby bathtub, the last ‘Mommy’. We don’t know to cherish the ‘lasts’ because as they are happening, we don’t yet know that they are a ‘last.’ But as I watched my son, my big 10-year-old son whose feet used to dangle playfully at the side of Santa’s legs but now rested comfortably on the floor, I realized that I was very well witnessing a ‘last’. My son was thoroughly immersed in the magic of Christmas and the thought of shopping, baking and wrapping almost caused me to miss it. Feeling as I had just been given the biggest gift of the season, I blocked out every sensory distraction except for the scene of my son with Santa. I watched, trying to etch every detail of the scene into my memory – the way my son nodded hesitantly when Santa asked him if he’d been good this year, the way he looked down at his shoes while reciting his wish list for fear of looking overly confident by looking directly into Santa’s eyes, the way the corners of his mouth turned up in a little smile when Santa patted him of the back and said that he was sure my son was a very good boy, and the look of gratitude my son gave as Santa handed him a candy cane and wished him a merry Christmas.

My son slowly stood up and while walking back to me, he glanced once over his shoulder and saw Santa, saw the magic, perhaps for the last time.

Warm pools of gratitude and love formed in the corners of my eyes. The shopping, baking and wrapping could wait. This was happiness. This was joy. This is what Christmas is all about. This is what life is all about – enjoying and cherishing every moment, valuing every moment for what it holds. Sometimes it’s a simple request to go ice skating that reminds me to experience the joy of today instead of planning for the joy of tomorrow. For the joy of today may never present itself again. Merry Christmas.

Sonya May
President, Choose Joy, Inc

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