Gathering together with family over Thanksgiving, shared memories came up for discussion from earlier days together in the family circle. With the darkest day of the year approaching — Winter Solstice, Dec. 21 — my sister and I talked of Christmas remembrances together and then apart as we grew, married and had our children. Some were shining and happy, some ho-hum, and some either disappointing, lonely or sad. My husband offered some of his look-backs, too. One thing stood out above all else: Christmastime is really for the children.
I realized we were but a trio representing the universal condition. Although each of us has had some daunting challenge within our years of life, we are indeed a fortunate trio of individuals.
As with many living in the Western world, we are not now experiencing nor have ever been without the basic needs for all human beings to survive and thrive, as some many millions are experiencing their lives even as I write. We’ve always had untainted water to drink, have not gone to bed hungry, have not been orphaned as children nor lacked a roof over our heads and adequate clothing. Most important, no matter the wartime circumstances the three of us lived through, we have felt for the most part, protected and safe.
The same goes of our children, although the “feel safe” part for our grandchildren has slowly been eroding. Our reminiscences of Christmases past are part of this fortune, even if considered to be just the glittering stars atop the trees of our lives. I haven’t a doubt that each of us wishes to enable and pass such happy shine and a feeling of familial love on within our young ones to the best of our abilities and budgets.
That’s the very reason the commercial aspect of the season has been able to rear its head even before what’s now known as “Black Friday,” just past. The sales aspect of goods now doesn’t just stay put within actual store fronts and media advertising, but assails us via smart phones, e-mails and more. How to stick to our lists and stay balanced within budget and mental state is today’s challenge. Christmas seems to have become a secular holiday, celebrated with gift-giving for no matter whether Christian, Buddhist or belonging to another religious sect.
Here’s an admission about being out and about for something totally “unneeded” that I saw advertised in a flyer. The Ace-Ben Franklin Lihue store was truly lit-up and Christmas-y when I entered before Thanksgiving. Displays in the aisles sparkled. I’m not sure if the air was really fragrant, or if I just imagined it. One thing for sure, I was seduced by the seasonal magic that had been created most successfully and side-tracked from my mission of the moment. When I wrenched myself back, I found the item I’d come for — a toy train and track set — was “out.” The sale had been immediately successful.
Driving home, I went over my husband’s recently retold tale of an unfulfilled Christmas wish in my mind. As a youngster, he’d always dreamed of the gift of an electric train set. Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the family had been well off; his older brother had owned such a set. But when they lost all the holdings they’d worked so hard to achieve and were interned with other Japanese Americans in Gila, Arizona, the chance of such a gift for Dee during the war years in “camp” was beyond hope. Each year, he’d said with a stoic face, he’d open his present only to find a cardboard punch-out-and-fit-tabs-together train. How they acquired even that was quite amazing. When the family members came “out” of the camp to work and recover their lives, an electric train set was still beyond hope. At some point as he grew, the train wish was forgotten. His own son, as a kid, had been more interested in race car tracks.
My spur-of-the-moment idea was probably a crazy one, I consoled myself. I had pictured Dee with his adult son and daughter enjoying each other as they set up that little train track around this year’s tree. After the imagined fun, I’d gone so far as to plan to donate the train set to find its way to another girl or boy who might wish similarly.
When the train wish story came up at Thanksgiving, I told my husband about my fruitless trip to acquire the train. He laughed it off, assuring me there was no need.
Do you know what? I felt wonderful to give him my own caring intention, even though it ended up being virtually nothing.
Now that our children are adults and all but one of our grandchildren approach maturity, too, we don’t exchange presents because we have everything we need. We value shared experiences, instead. I’d like to assure you, though, Dear Readers, that this person is not “Green Flashing” you a Bah-Humbug message, for I do believe in the magic — the real magic. This is, indeed, the season when light and love returning is a promise held out to us on darkest days, a gift to us searching, wanting, desirous and often fickle human beings who can slip off the true path to our fulfillment and real happiness. A brand new year and a chance to right all is on the near horizon.
Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. Shared passions are nature and travel. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For more information, email@example.com