Someone asked me if I missed the holidays of my childhood. Sure, who doesn’t remember those halcyon days with melancholy and joy. The house was decorated, there was a lot of cooking in the days leading up to the holiday and for days after, the smell of home cooking lingered in the air.
At the time, I didn’t enjoy those gatherings very much because the house was packed with about thirty friends and relatives, some I didn’t know. They got in the way (and in my stuff) of my routine, practice and work. It was difficult for me to take a day off back in those days so holidays were almost traumatic for me, a workaholic.
What I do miss is the joy and care my mother put into the holidays with the decorations and all that cooking. Both my sisters were married with four kids each and all those people meant more food, more noise, more chaos and long hours. That was something my mother thrived on.
After my two sisters became Jehovah’s Witnesses and my brother married and moved away, it was just my mother and me on those holy days. At this point she was very ill with COPD. On her last Thanksgiving, she cooked up a feast as always and it was just my mom and me. I took the dog for a walk after the meal and clean up and we walked down by the lake and past a neighbor’s house where I saw in the window that there were about 20 people inside and it reminded me what our holidays were like. I wasn’t sad that I wasn’t embroiled in a sea of relatives but, sad that my mother and all she loved was fading away.
As I walked around the lake I remembered how when I was about ten, the older kids ruled the lake, the dyke, the dam, the docks and I looked up to them in awe, respect and fear. Then when I was an older teen, I realized that I along with my friends ruled the lake. I recently met someone who now lives on the lake and I realized that other young people now rule the lake, maybe. I have heard that the lake association closed all the swimming holes by dumping rocks on the beaches, putting up barricades so no one can park on the side of the street and fencing off the dyke. This wondrous place for a kid to grow up is now off limits but I guess that is okay. Kids today have Facebook and the internet to explore their worlds and interact with people.
Nothing is so good it lasts eternally. Perfect situations must go wrong. There are some facts about life which no one can escape; That life is short and almost always ends messily; that no one thinks as well of you as you do yourself; that in one or two generations from now you will be forgotten entirely and that the world will go on as if you had never existed. Another fact is that to survive and prosper in this world, you have to do so at someone else’s expense or do things that are not pleasant to face.
One of these gifts that we enjoy is freedom but it comes at the cost of the innocents murdered in the aerial bombing of Europe and the final bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And not just the bombings. It’s also an unpleasant fact that we are alive and well because the generation before us killed people with bullets, shells, bayonets, or knives, if not in Germany, Italy, or Japan, then Korea or Vietnam. Our politicians have connived at murder and war, and we enjoy the freedom for it today. The truth is that if we get what we want, it turns out not to be the thing we wanted, or at least at the cost.
I hope we remember that.