Friday, December 23, 2005

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I just finished reading a wonderful article in the Hamilton Spectator by Lorraine Sommerfeld who writes the “Motherlode” column. As she has often done in the past few years, her words moved me. In today's column she reflected on some amusing and personal family Christmas traditions and memories. And, of course, by the end of the column I was practically in tears as her memories and sentiments reminded of my own family memories.

Yesterday at work some colleagues and I took a friend who is leaving our company out to lunch. Among the places we tried to get into, we stopped by Gretzky’s (a road-house type bar and restaurant themed after hockey’s greatest player and ambassador). There was a sign on the door stating that the restaurant was closed out of respect for Wayne Gretzky’s mother, whose funeral was that day. I thought that was very fitting. And with all the holiday lunches likely happening this week, this was truly an example of honor and respect over the dollar.

It reminded me, of course, of the fact that the year before I met her, Francine’s father passed away on the 22nd of December, and then she lost her grandmother very next week. It’s not easy to lose someone period, and the holidays are always difficult because of those empty chairs and the bitter-sweet memories of missed loved ones. But losing someone at the very time that the rest of the world is celebrating is a doubly painful blow. Francine, of course, has amazing strength and her heart is filled with so much love that despite what is always a difficult time for her, she’s a source of spreading cheer and joy into the lives of her friends and family. While I never had the privilege of meeting either her father or grandmother, I feel like I’ve known them for many years through the loving stories and memories Francine has shared with me.

My Mother and Baba arrived in Hamilton last night thanks to my brother-like cousin Rodney who went up north to pick them up and bring them down to spend the holidays with family. Rodney, his brother Kevin and I grew up very much like brothers and spent every Christmas together when we were young -- we haven't all celebrated Christmas together since the early 90's. This will also be the first Christmas that my Baba gets to see ALL of her great grandchildren at the very same time, which warms my heart to no end.

I can only image the fun that my father (who passed away the year before my son was born) would have had playing with my son Alexander. I think it’s cute that Alexander loves to play with the wooden Rudolph reindeer with the flashing red nose that my father made, the little “Mr Bunny” figure he carved and the way he runs to the front window and yells in excitement when he sees the white light reindeer in our front yard turn on in the early evening (the same reindeer that Fran and I had bought for my father intending to give them to him at Christmas the very year that he died). I smile at how, though my father never met Alexander how he's still able to bring a smile to my son's face.

There are so many others, so many cherished and loved friends and family that we’ve known over the years who are either no longer with us or who live far away and whose company we will not have the pleasure of when we share in the holidays.

But, they are ever present in our hearts and in our fond memories. And to extend the thought that Lorraine Sommerfeld put so eloquently in her column, nomatter where we roam or how much time has passed, there will always be a chair for these celebrated ghosts at our table.


Zephyr said...

Beautiful sentiments!

I think it must be the time of year to reminisce... I've been in that mood as well. :)

Merry Christmas!

Wenchy said...

Just wanted to wish you a HAPPY, HAPPY Christmas! :)

Rainypete said...

Merry Christmas Mark and the rest of the clan!!