I love the holidays. Everything about them: the food, the tradition, the music. I love getting just the right gifts for my family. My goal is to make my daughter so happy that she hugs my wife and me until we think our eyes are going to pop out of our heads. I like getting my wife, Kate, gifts that make her cry. I've only managed this a handful of times. My favourite, though, is last year's gift. After my wife's Grandmother passed away in 2009, Kate helped the family clean out her apartment. One of the items she salvaged was an old Italian cookbook from the 1930s. The book was coverless, pages were torn, the stitching was coming out. The book sat in a ziplock bag for almost two years. On the sly, I brought the book to a bookbinder (http://www.redbonebindery.com/) who did a wonderful job repairing the book and added a dedication page memorializing her grandmother. When Kate opened the present on Christmas day and she realized what she had, well, she was quite emotional.
Having a young child just makes Christmas about 1,239,652 times more fun. To see, and to be honest, feel the Bean's excitement is like crack-cocaine: one hit and you're hooked and want the highs to keep on coming. At our neighbourhood Christmas party last week, her face just lit up with pure joy when Santa made his entrance. I wish I could bottle that look. One thing we've managed to instill in our little girl is gratitude. She knows how lucky she is to get what she gets, and thankfully, with us, at least, she shows her gratitude with hugs and kisses. We'll cash in like crazy. I've started a semi-tradition of carving Lena Welsh love spoons for Christmas, though I wasn't able to this year with everything else that's been going on. She's proud of them even though they are a little crudely done. She won't hear of me downplaying my ability with the knife and gouge: "No, Daddy, you're a very skilled carver." My heart melts.
The holidays are a little bittersweet for me though. My mother passed away on New Year's Eve of 1998, so the season is an annual reminder of that loss. My dad also passed away in February of 2010, on the eve of the Winter Olympics opening in Vancouver and so he was in his last few weeks over the holidays. I'm a little sad for these reasons, but mostly wistful and nostalgic about all the good times we had as a family.
I'm often labelled as a negative person (a label I reject in favour of frustrated optimist), but during the holidays I feel a more intense gratitude for what I have - a wonderful family, great friends and generous and thoughtful neighbours (mostly).
So, to friends, family and all who read this blog, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukuh and all the best for the New Year.