By Shellie Miller-Farrugia
She was a valued neighbor. A familiar face at block parties, commission meetings and community events. Widowed at a young age, after her three sons grew and moved far away, she remained rooted in city functions and showed up any time there was a cause to support or a neighbor in need.
He was a single dad and this particular Christmas, the kids were to be with their mom visiting her family out of state. He was somebody’s lawn man, somebody’s best friend and somebody else’s son…and his parents had died years before.
Another couple have grown old together. Their holiday plans were TV dinners and a game of rummy, same as every night. He’s been retired for 11 years and they never had children, but the scores of kids he drove on the school bus every day always kept him feeling young. He misses the cacophony and milestones of his favorite youngsters as they grew from grade to grade.
One of my favorite Holiday times over the years of growing our family has alway been Christmas Eve. Where most people are surrounded by loved ones on that particular night, I always had an affection for the loners…the ones who didn’t have so much to look forward to. Once upon a time, I was one myself, and with only my mom and little ones, 2 & 3, sharing ourselves with others gifted us with so much more than we were giving.
So that lovely widow brought a casserole side dish that we all supped in record time. She shared stories of raising three sons with me, a young mom of two and my older mom of just one daughter. She told us secrets to making the best black beans, and shared her memories about the Holidays in Cuba before she moved here as a youngster.
And the young dad listened intently as she shared that time with the kids is fleeting, and he vowed to cherish every available moment. He realized that working for the dollar wasn’t as valuable as taking the time to enjoy every minute, no matter the activity, with his children.
When I look back today, I realize that the older couple modeled that enjoying my partner in life is not all about the kids we share. It is about the two of us delighting in every nuance of the years we have to spend with each other. It is about the celebratory moments and the mundane ones, too. Both are guaranteed. Both are lovely, and all come together in a beautiful seasoning that is the spice of a unique and wonderful life.
Fast forward a few years and our family has grown to include my husband and I, five kids, two daughter-in-laws, and two grandchildren…but the greatest thrill of the Holidays for me are those places at the table that are reserved for friends who would otherwise spend a very special day as if it were any other. Enjoying the company, laughter and friendship of people who value WHO you are instead of WHAT you can give them is the greatest gift by far.