On December 23rd we were at my parents’ home for a family gathering. Everyone was there, all the grandchildren and children. This was the first time in five years Dave and I had been in Canada for Christmas and the first time we had all been together in much longer since often people in our family travel over Christmas. My Mom was in good spirits even though she’d had dialysis in the morning and hadn’t been able to nap because she was so excited about the family Christmas party.
We had a great meal. I had roasted the turkey, my first in many, many years and it was a success thanks to good advice from my friend Esther, the friendly butcher at Safeway who helped me pick it out, and my Dad who helped with the carving and gravy. My sister-in-law Kathy had made creamy mashed potatoes and a crunchy salad, my brother Ken had roasted a spicy vegetable medley and brought this great cheese bread and my sister Kaaren contributed the cranberry sauce, punch and a pyramid of cream puffs covered with white and dark chocolate for dessert.
My Dad had planned a nice little reflection time for after the meal. Here, my niece, Amanda is reading the Christmas story from Luke 2. Just before that my Dad asked my daughter-in-law Karen, who is going to have a baby in April, to read the story where the angel Gabriel tells Mary she will have a baby. Then Dad asked representatives from the different families to light candles and he read this prayer written by Rabbi Lawrence Pinkster from Winnipeg’s Shaarey Zedek Synagogue.
In a world of so many ways of being human, may this season enable us all to see that we are valued and loved for our uniqueness, not for our conformity to someone else’s definition of us.
Judging from the wild diversity of humankind, God seems to delight or find reward in our creativity, which reveals remarkable facets of what it means to be human. We, humans, are like countless varieties of beautiful flowers in a vast planetary garden.
There is so much to appreciate and celebrate if we would only use the light of this season to see each other with love and respect.
My Dad said he was glad in our family we have been able to get along and treat one another with love and respect.
Here, my brother, Mark is explaining the present exchange. We had each brought a gift and so there were twenty to choose from. There are rules about stealing the gifts of others, but only a certain number of times. Families can plan strategy together in order to get the gift someone wants. My nephew Bryan was the master of this! He launched a five-step plan that allowed his brother Mark’s fiancée to keep the scarf knit by my son Bucky’s fiancée. I ended up with a beautiful framed photograph of a flower taken by my daughter-in-law Karen when she was in Jamaica.
My son Joel, who is from Saskatoon was very happy to end up with a Winnipeg Jets scarf. My Mom is holding her gift, a family calendar my sister-in-law Kathy makes each year, that has lots of family photos and the birthdays and anniversaries of everyone in the family marked on it.
A highlight of the evening was carol singing. My Mom played the piano which was wonderful. She can no longer see well enough to read music but she has a fantastic musical ear and was able to play all the carols by memory. We did a couple German ones in memory of my grandparents. Our little family of six sang Lo How A Rose in harmony a capella. It was the song our family sang in church together in Hong Kong at Tao Fong Shan on Christmas Eve in 2004 just before we left for Phuket where we experienced the tsunami.
What next? Well, there are a couple more days of celebrating left to go. I’m looking forward to them too.