We’re in a lull in the wind and rainstorms right now and the streets are wet and slick. The sunlight is so filtered by the cloud cover that it appears weak and sickly and not at all related to the glare of the summer sun. Through the window everything appears cold and gray though in fact it is only chilly, but appearances matter and I can almost feel the shivers running through me.
Inside we’ve been warmed for a week or more by the presence of family; visitors who spent Thanksgiving with us, our geographically local family members who have been visiting almost daily and planning the holidays with us, and those scattered around the country. In preparation for this season of giving we’ve been conferring with children about the needs and desires of grandchildren (cash is almost always good) and braving the chill to shop.
Families, as we know, come in an infinite variety of flavors and no two do anything truly alike. My children are spread across the continent and we all share a common reluctance to communicate with each other. As my grandchildren mature I’m forced to mature as well, and I now realize it is my responsibility to reach out and make connections for if I don’t I’ll miss out on their ever-changing lives and be sorry about it. So I do, and I’m the richer for it.
The sound of the newest infant cooing and gurgling into the phone while resting in her father’s arms is enough to erase the three thousand miles of separation and to fill me with a sort of unexpected joy.
This is also a time of tension in many families, and is therefore a time I try to be mindful and patient and understanding. I am lucky in many ways and not the least is the joy brought to me by family. I hope I listen well enough, empathize well enough and say helpful things when I speak. We cannot know what effect we have on others' lives so I try to give as much positive energy to others as I receive. I get so much that returning good feelings keeps me on my toes trying to hold up my end.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, families all across the country and the world, mine very much included, will reach out to each other in love. The reaching out is the important part, itself an expression of loving. Through the din of retail advertising urging us to turn this season into an orgy of consumerism one can still hear the notes of love and warmth and good wishes and good feeling from one family member to another and from one family to another.
Religion and winter solstice aside, the true meaning of this season is family. Reach out and touch yours.