Winding down the holidays

January 2, 2010 9:19:00 PM

Betty Stone -


Just three more days of the Christmas season, which officially ends Jan. 6, on Epiphany. I hope yours has been a happy holiday. 


I think that somewhere along the way I discovered a kinship with the Griswolds, not that I have thousands of lights on my house, but that I keep trying to make the holidays extraordinary. Usually, we romantics just set ourselves up for disappointment. As Alexander Pope said, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be, blessed." 


Still, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." I guess you might say we had a successful holiday. Let me tell you about it. 


Only two grandchildren got sick, but they had no fever, so at least we did not have to search frantically for a doctor, which we sometimes must do. The flight attendant granddaughter, who had thought she would have to fly on Christmas Day, got the weekend off instead. She came here with her parents. Her gifts did not. They had been sent to her apartment in Arizona, except for the ones that arrived too late for the mail and were brought here to go home with her parents. There still wasn''t much for her to open, so everyone else scurried around trying to make up surprise packets for her. 


For others, electronics carried the day. Conversation did not exist Christmas morning. Everyone was plugged in, some to computers and Facebook, some to iPhones. In fact, the distinction blurs for me; every gadget seems to do everything. If one is not a tekkie, one is left out. I confess that miffs me a bit. I can''t see how studying directions for several hours qualifies for entertainment, either. When I am in the company of real, live people, I want their attention, but I am no competition for the little screens. My nose got a bit out of joint. 


I realize, however, that I need to cut the young folks a little slack. They were, after all, away from their friends on Christmas. When I was their age, part of the day''s ritual was visiting friends to see what they got, or playing outside with our new toys. 


We had to search through the trash only once. The ear-plug for the iPod was successfully recovered. (At least it wasn''t someone''s false teeth that got thrown away, as in one story I heard.) Two identical cuff watches broke in the same place on the bands and had to be taken to a jeweler later. 


Christmas dinner went OK. No one dropped the turkey on the floor or inadvertently wrapped it up with the gifts (another story I heard). My main difficulty was in looking for things. I''ve been in this house a year now, but I still haven''t remembered where we put everything, especially those seldom-used holidays items. We had several guests and happy conviviality. We ate too much and, from then on, everyone had to fend for himself. 


Christmas night was a rare treat for me; I went to a movie. Of course our crowd couldn''t agree on what we wanted to see, but that was no problem. The beauty of a multiplex is that we could split up and go to our choice. For someone who goes to the movies only a couple of times a year, it was an Occasion. 


In departing, someone left a present and a Christmas stocking here, and one had to leave early because his father was in the hospital. But isn''t that just like life? It''s full of little bumps and big hurdles. 


There are probably very few picture-perfect, Griswold-pleasing Christmases. That''s not the important thing. Christmas is unique among holidays. The real meaning is not in the decorations, the lavish food, or excessive gifts, but in that one great Gift. As for the rest of it, well, perhaps another quotation is in order: Robert Browning wrote, "A man''s reach must exceed his gras

Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.