I was feeling slightly swamped on Saturday. We needed groceries desperately, we were still trying to figure out our pictures for our Christmas card, the house needed serious attention, and we were way behind on our Christmas shopping.
Then you add a family Christmas party on top of it all.
I sat down by my younger sister at the party, and she was clearly feeling she could be other places too. Namely, studying for her finals.
But it was so sweet to see the cousins laugh and play with each other. And it wasn’t like we had been asked to do much either as my mom and her sisters made a delicious breakfast of pancakes, berries, cream and egg casseroles. My dear Aunt Valerie was cleaning the kitchen while my Uncle Glenn gathered us into his great room to share a few thoughts on how we might honor Christmas—let go of a grudge, write a letter, or give a soft answer.
He told a story of my grandfather, Papa. When my uncle Glenn was a teenager, my Papa gave him the keys to the car and asked him to drive it carefully. Glenn took the keys, peeled out of the driveway, and raced down their street. The next day, Papa softly told Glenn that his behavior the day before was unacceptable. Glenn was really moved by the quiet way Papa rebuked him. So was I.
I started to relax a little more in the couch next to my sister, and perhaps that’s why I was able to take notice of a beautiful gesture. My little toddler niece was stumbling beneath my uncle, and he stooped down, took her face between his hands, and gently kissed her head.
How often do I offer such gestures of loving kindness? Am I too hurried to take that moment to put my arm around my son, to offer my husband a kiss good-bye, or to laugh at Ricky’s little joke?
And as I sat there watching slides of our family, of my loved ones that are no longer with us, I wondered if I take enough time to remember. My parents and grandparents sacrificed so much for me. No, their marriages were not always easy and raising their children was just downright exhausting, but they kept plugging on. My mom could see her fruits now–her eight children, her fifteen grandchildren, and see how sweet those fruits were.
Fifty years from now, could my posterity be looking at pictures of me, remembering the sweet times they had while I was with them? What will they remember about me?
That night, I exchanged some loud words with my son about kitchen duty. He spoke some loud words back. So I spoke some even louder words. I felt bad after it was all over, and as I lay in my bed, I thought of my Papa giving soft answers. I could do that too. He is part of my genetic and spiritual make-up, and I believe he’s often closer than I realize, helping me be the best mother that I can.