Holidays give everyone second chance

By Clyde Davis: Columnist

In the Victorian-era Christmas classic “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge encounters several ghosts who transform his priorities, and thus his life. One of them, the Ghost of Christmas Past, influences Scrooge by taking him back to yuletides of his childhood and young adulthood, before he had become immersed in selfishness.

I doubt that most of us would consider ourselves to be Scrooges, but I do believe that lessons can be learned, and relationships healed or revitalized, by remembering the times past and the holidays spent with loved ones with whom we may have lost touch. If those people are still around, we have the chance to act out our love, just as Ebenezer Scrooge received a “new lease on life.”

As a child, I was among the youngest batch of cousins in my mother’s large extended family. Christmas Eve would invariably be the occasion for a chaotic, exciting, colorful and disorganized family gathering. I loved it.

Remembering these Christmas celebrations also brings thoughts of my two favorite girl cousins, Jeannie and Janice. They were eight and seven years older than me, respectively, so were teenagers when I was in elementary school. Two things about them stand out: They took me everywhere with them, when they began to drive me, the little tag-along cousin. Secondly, they consistently stopped my older boy cousins from picking on me, as older boys are given to doing.

Both women live in Florida now. Janice is a judge, and Jeannie a principal. In the busyness of our lives, we have lost touch with one another. It’s only through my mother that I’m aware that, about a year ago, they lost their dad, my great uncle, whom they had taken to Florida after my great aunt died.

Have you a similar story? I have a feeling that each of us can look back on holidays now gone and remember people with whom we have lost contact, not intentionally but as a result of relocation and lifestyle. In my case, I have both physical and e-mail addresses for my cousins, so when I send out cards, late as usual, I know of two that will be going to Florida.

Sometimes the family rift is not simply the result of neglect, but of active hostility. The good news is that this is a fine time of year to catch people in a more forgiving mood, or to be in that mood oneself. I cannot prove this, but I believe it wholeheartedly. More love, friendships and familial ties than we can imagine could be recovered by simply reciting the words “I am really very sorry” and meaning them.

The Ebenezer Scrooge character had to go through some bizarre supernatural happenings in order to recover his humanness. You and I may not have to experience ghosts; few of us are that far gone.
Nonetheless, this season provides us with a great chance to realign priorities, renew relationships and mend interpersonal bridges that have been broken or fallen into disrepair.