Christmas - past and present
As a boy, I remember Christmas with lots and lots of family gathered in the family home in the West End of Atlanta. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins galore all came together for the occasion with Christmas music being played, lights and trees filled the home and gifts were not necessarily expensive, but were given with love and care, because…well, we were family and were just glad to be together. I loved those days because I loved my extended family. However, the one tradition I did not care for was the mother of two of my cousins who was a pianist and musician and would always (literally) demand that the three of us sing solos as the three “Kings of Orient Are.” Every year. None of us wanted to do it, but, you just could not say, “No,” to Aunt Jo. So, every year, Roby, Gordon, and I would get our parts assigned and sing for the family.
And, oh, how I remember the food and desserts. My family was full of great cooks. My great-grandpa would preside over the dinner and party with his quiet grace and humor and was given the respect due him.
As time passed and the family home was sold, we kept the family party going at my Aunt Jo’s home in Fayetteville … yes, with Roby, Gordon and I still singing about the three wise men. I tried to hide behind sofas and chairs and, even feign hoarseness, but to no luck.
As the years progressed, and families began to move and have children and grandchildren, the large family parties began to cease. Oh, we would still be in contact with everyone during the year, and at Christmas, but we didn’t seem to gather for the traditional family party.
Then, as I (and others) became more involved in church programs and the Christmas season became more and more hectic, our extended family began to drift apart except for the annual card and phone call. I was sad because I love my family and missed the large gatherings.
Finally, the period came when the older members of my family began to pass away and the younger generations just couldn’t quite find the time to get together, even for Christmas. Our Christmas dinner began to dwindle down to just my immediate family. Now, it is just me, my mom, brother, sister and her family. And, I enjoy it more and more each year. Oh, the large family gatherings were great, but somehow the smaller family group is more special. More personal. Filled with more love and the spirit of Christmas.
As I’ve grown older and can take more time to experience the season, I’ve learned that it is not about receiving gifts, but about what I can give to others. These do not have to be expensive at all, but just to give something. Like cleaning out my closet for coats and gloves I rarely use or cutting out flannel to make scarves for the homeless. Like buying $5 McDonald gift cards to go to downtown Atlanta for those living on the streets. To enjoy an evening of sitting in front of the fireplace enjoying the company of my family (or a Hallmark movie). Enjoy dinner with a few close friends. All these things are Christmas for me now ... and I would not trade it for anything. Times have changed since I was a boy, and as much as I enjoyed the big family gatherings, I now enjoy the quietness of the season with a few people who are close to me. But, I still will never sing “We Three Kings” again.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
Jimmy Cochran is a resident of McDonough, a musician, a minister and the author of “Being God’s” and “Staying God’s,” both available at Amazon.com. Being God’s is now also available at Moyes Pharmacy in McDonough.