On a recent visit back to Chicago, my daughter-in-law shared a dear tale about our little four and a half year old grandson, Ben. On most days he is driven to pre-school by his mother or grandmother who also picks up a neighborhood child. One day the mother of the child offered to drive and when dropping Ben home asked how he liked her taking him to school. Without skipping a beat he quietly replied that he didn’t because her car was messy and dirty. Needless to say my daughter-in-law was mortified but the neighbor was dear as she apologized and acknowledged the condition of her car. What was so remarkable is that Ben is just an average four year old little boy who for all appearances seems to be more interested in sports than the condition of his surroundings. I guess that is why it was such a memorable comment and one that will never need to be written down in order to be engraved in his mother’s or for that matter his grandmother’s mind and heart.
With all the things that go on in the home and all the effort that is exerted to keep it up one can easily wonder ‘does it really matter’? The holiday seasons that come and go, as well as the endless celebrations throughout the year that we magically engineer into reality, at times cause us to ask, ‘who really cares’? My answer is, they all do. It is rare to hear a little four year old express his opinion about the state of an environment but it also alerts us to the fact that what we are doing does matter. During these hectic times when so many of us are squeezed to get it all done it is reassuring to know that they do notice and that our efforts will find a special place in their hearts.
The way we wrap packages or light small votive candles that brighten a table during the holidays will spark a memory to be passed on to future generations. I recall a birthday plate we had in our home as a child. Each and every home baked cake was brought out on that beautiful china platter that, if broken, I know would have more than saddened my mother. Yet she didn’t keep it in the china cupboard but shared it with all of us. After her death, it was my younger brother who quickly claimed the plate for his own. It is now part of his family tradition that on special occasions the goodies are presented bearing memories of his childhood.
The efforts we put into our family traditions and celebrations need not be expensive or time intensive but rather done with a love that will radiate the joy you want to give to the others. My husband fondly remembers the quarter wrapped in wax paper and hidden in the birthday or Christmas cake. His mother sliced each piece knowing where the surprise would be and on particularly special occasions more than one quarter would appear, keeping them all guessing.
The shopping and care it takes to make our children look and feel special during these times of celebration, on the surface may not seem that important to them and yet years later as they recall that Christmas Mass or that birthday party, the mental vision of what they wore and how it made them feel will rush back. All of the family gatherings that we look forward to are more than a moment in time but rather a reflection of who we are as human beings and the dignity of each one. They help to shape us and give us an inner security about the importance of our lives. Home is the first place that we are meant to realize that importance and thus even in the midst of all the time constraints and responsibilities during our busy schedules to know that it really matters even to the very young can’t help but put a smile on our faces and a joy in our hearts with an assurance that it is all worthwhile.