The vast majority of my Christmas decorations have been up for a couple of weeks now.
I usually put them up in early November once daylight savings time ends. While the added light in morning is nice, with it getting dark at 5 p.m., it’s nice to brighten up the house a bit. After all, the lights can either stay in a Tupperware bin or be turned on, so why not turn them on?
As I put out the village and the tree and turn on the lights, one of the last things to go up is the Nativity figurines and the ornaments.
As I pull out the ornaments each year, one of the things that I’m reminded of every year are my grandparents, because many of them were created by my grandmother, Pat, and collected by my grandparents Henry and Evelyn.
Grandma Pat is quite the remarkable sewer. On my tree there is a grandfather clock, a mailbox, a small set of golf clubs, a fireplace, a pair of ice skates, and numerous other little ornaments she sewed over the years. On top of that, at my parents home were small buildings she created. As a child, she wanted me to have my own town. So she’d spend her days literally creating a town out of needle and thread. It included a hardware store, a TV repair shop (we may buy them now when they break but back in the day, my grandpa Mike ran his own repair shop), and a church.
The Nativity Set came from Italy, and my Godmother Gen purchased it in the early 1950s. She was in many ways like a grandmother to me too. As a child, I remember visiting her home which I thought was the neatest house I’d ever been in; it was in Southeast Minneapolis, and had been the family home. And to this day, I’ll never forget her wonderful car that I’d love to take for a spin: a late 70’s model lime green Dodge Dart.
This week, I am privileged to celebrate Mass on Wednesday as our school marks grandparents day. Knowing many grandparents of our school children who come to daily Mass, it’s always a joy to see them all together with their grandkids for a morning of fun activities.
The reason though I use the term “life-long” to describe grandparents, and refer to my grandma Pat in the present tense, even though she passed away 15 years ago, is that I know that no matter what the future holds for me, my grandparents will journey with me every day. Evelyn is my last living grandmother, who just turned 100 this past fall. I’m privileged to be able to still visit her and spend time with her.
They journey with me in the sense that they pray for me as I pray for them, but the ornaments I put out, the buildings I’m still able to look at that are made of yarn, these are not just nice things to look at. They are reminders. Reminders to me of people who sacrificed so much for their families. Of people who lived out their faith. Of people who were generous with their time and put others ahead of them. I have so many great memories of Pat, Mike, Henry, Evelyn and my Godmother Gen, but I also am inspired as life goes on to keep trying to become a better priest and man because of what I learned through them.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving in a few days, I’ll be seeing loved ones again, while at the same time thinking about how I could still be watching football with my grandfather before the turkey or having my grandmother make sure that the gravy was more than I’d need for my potatoes and turkey. I won’t be physically sitting down to have a meal with them anymore. But they are a whole lot more than photos and hand made ornaments. They are people who made, and continue to make a difference in my life and are now at a banquet that is far better than anything you or me will be enjoying Thursday evening. One day I hope to join them there, and I truly believe I can because they help me to get closer to them every day, one step at a time.
To all of our grandparents, thank you for the difference you make in our lives. May God bless you and your families this Thanksgiving.