Christmas 2009 was amazing. My entire family, excluding my brother, showed up and stayed around for a bit. My sister brought her two dogs and my son brought his. I’ve not had animals in the house for a long time, short of accidentally when my one remaining pet shoots past the unaware. And though my adult children and their significant others (SOs) come and stay nearly every Christmas (my children certainly do), I’ve not had this many beings in my house in about twenty years.
We had promised each other that we would not splurge on gifts, finding some event that would be memorable to do instead. What a joke! Every one went nuts—it took us nearly three hours to open gifts and nary a one was irrelevant. It was a blast, even when something went awry. I open a gift from my son—a GPS for my car—and it wasn’t there! Someone had heisted it from the box unbeknownst to my son or the store personnel (he returned it ASAP and the store people noted that they that mistakenly put the items on the floor and indeed, people had been making off with the contents).
It isn’t just the gifts of course, it’s the way we use the gifts to tap upgrade suggestions. Using the GPS as an example, we have been speculating about a different kind of GPS that would let us know how we’re doing with intimate relations. One would have to enter a destination and pick the fastest way, the scenic route, or the most energy efficient plan. The relationship GPS could also provide insight about intimate “targets.” “The person next to you is excited and doesn’t want to show it, move your left hand to their thigh.” If that person then slaps your hand away, the relationship GPS would utter the ubiquitous word “recalculating.” And so on—each gift providing hours of fun besides the benefits of the intended use. There is no gift that does not have many ways to bring delight.
We are also a quite competitive group—good competitive. Most of us went go-kart racing on an indoor track. Just too much fun. We’re not supposed to be bumping each other, but accidents do happen. My oldest daughter’s SO and I vied for the best times, with me losing by two-tenths of a second. Yep, old man with a hip problem, grunting loud enough out there to be heard over the uproar, putting the pedal to the medal and making a run of it. And actually, we were quite good. In the last race, a man and his friend mentioned that they had been professional go-kart people. They were third and fourth. Ha ha! We were going to laugh about that on the way to sushi, but I forgot I was no longer in a go-kart. What the heck, that’s why my car has “ahh-shit” handles.
We also saw the movie Avatar, which spurred some philosophical meanderings on our part—humans and machines, beings and awareness, interconnectedness and disconnectedness, etc. We re-wrote some of the dialogue of course and noted it would have been a better movie for it—it was a pretty standardized script. Nonetheless, we also noted the production values of the movie were impressive and that was quite the adventure, even if the script was lacking some depth.
In any case, the entire Christmas was everything Christmas is supposed to be. We all can worry about becoming irrelevant, whether it is because of age or gender or ethnicity or weight or intelligence or whatever. But when we honestly connect, when we genuinely interact, when we actually listen, when we are truly concerned, we make connections, we bridge the interpersonal gaps. That effort, that bridging, is the antidote to irrelevancy.
As I get older, I am sometimes concerned about ageism and irrelevancy. I’ve seen older parents and older people become less than included, regulated to some tolerated status. As an educator, I’m aware that I continue to get older while the incoming students’ age remains relatively static. While I’m aware about my responsibility to stay “in-touch,” I wonder sometimes if others are aware of that responsibility. Being connected is not a one-way avenue, it is nearly impossible to accomplish that way.
The heart of my family’s Christmas was about stewardship. The heart of the movie Avatar is about stewardship (one has to read between the lines). The heart of our existence is about stewardship. We are energy cohesions and one could say that we are loaned or we merely tap the energy necessary to be cohesive. We are inherently stewards. The holidays and the interactions that my family shared were and are immensely gratifying—we honored and shared our stewardship and when we went our seemingly separate ways, we were better because of that sharing, that interaction. It is not always easy to be a steward, but it is always appropriate.
I am glad. We have material gifts and we have wonderful experiences, but the greatest gift of all is that which goes beyond those gifts and those experiences, that which is the portal that brings us together even while it lets us be ourselves—the gift of wisdom. That gift will keep us safe, let us explore, and always keep us relevant.