By Bob Poczik
My parents separated when I was in fifth grade and were divorced before I reached eighth grade. During that time, my mother, brother and I lived together in different places and I attended several different schools. My brother and I spent two years in foster care, while my mother worked to get on her feet again.
When we were finally reunited and in a home again in Clarence, I was very excited about our first Christmas there. Due to all of the moves and furniture being put in and out of storage, we only had a few old ornaments. I set about to make it a good Christmas.
My stepfather had two sisters who worked for Birds Eye in Albion, testing new products. Our freezer was often full of frozen items, including chicken and beef pot pies. I saved the aluminum pot pie tins and cut them into star shapes. Then I cut out Christmas pictures from magazines and glued them to the centers of those stars. So, bit by bit I created decorations for our freshly cut tree. I stepped back to look, and it felt like a real Christmas.
It was like that all the way through high school. When I came home from college as a freshman for the Christmas break, I was dismayed to see a small table-top tree on the coffee table in the living room. No more big trees, my mother announced, that left needles all over the rug. I was disappointed but resigned myself to it, realizing that I could not make things happen when I was not there.
Now if you were to step into our home today, you would see some remarkable Christmas decorating. There are dazzling items from distant parts of the world where I have traveled. Not one, but two crèche scenes. And a 9-foot-tall Christmas tree that is the prettiest – and most overdecorated – tree you will see outside of a museum, historic home or magazine.
It is common knowledge in our family that when I am no longer able to decorate our home for Christmas, things will be radically simplified. No one else, not my wife or our grown children, will take on that task. My one distant hope is our 10-year-old granddaughter Ava. She alone demonstrates decorating spirit, energy and zeal. She is the one who works alongside me. I tell her that the things she likes best will someday be hers, and that pleases her.
We have six trunks full of Christmas ornaments. I wonder what will happen to those trunks when I am gone. I would like to think that they will be passed on in the family, but I am realistic enough to know that just might not happen. We have friends with homes full of antique furniture and treasures that they know do not match the simpler tastes of their children. I guess we need to live with and enjoy those things that please us during our lifetime, and not worry about what will happen to them when we are gone.
If you think about it, none of us really owns anything or can hold onto anything or control what will happen to it in the future. Buddhism encourages people to develop a sense of detachment from the things of this world, because they do not endure, and trying to hold onto them only causes unhappiness. So I will need to let go of the trappings of Christmas someday, and hope I can do it with grace.
I do understand the deeper meaning of Christmas in my faith, and faith is the one thing that I never need let go of. If I can pass that sense along to our children and grandchildren, I guess those six trunks of ornaments could be given away or sold. But, oh, how they have made our family Christmases merry for the more than 40 years that they have brightened our home during the holiday season.