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Simple pleasures are the best holiday gift

It was the day after Christmas, and already we were being weaned off the holiday.

The pile of presents that had made it impossible for me to step into my upstairs closet for months had disappeared, and I hoped these gifts had brought pleasure to family and friends. Thanks to the efforts of my daughters who shared Christmas Day with me, the tumble of wrapping paper that flew off boxes was stuffed in bags, and was already in the garbage. Jess had magically removed any hint of the chaos that cluttered my kitchen, following what seemed like my constant preparation of food during a twelve-hour period.

As I emerged from the cobwebs of sleep Christmas morning, I snuggled under the warm covers and waited. Finally, the muffled sounds of voices reached my ears. These sounds are not only a part of the holiday season – they bring a smile to my face anytime one of my girls and their guys come home. Their voices wrap around me like a warm garment, and my husband’s voice echoes through time.

When the girls returned for a visit, Doug would always be the first one down to the kitchen in the morning. They would have their special time to catch up, and Doug could enjoy guy talk with the boys – a luxury for a man living with five females. I like to be reminded of those days when I would catch a few more winks while listening to the murmur of their voices.
The girls insist that I adhere to family tradition – Christmas breakfast must include cinnamon buns and my cheese wreath. I planned this year to prepare these customary treats prior to the opening of gifts. My hopes of being well organized seemed doomed, when I realized I had forgotten the biscuits. Would the girls be denied their traditional cheese wreath? Kim and Jeff came to the rescue, locating an open store where biscuits sat ready to extend a Wielinski Christmas breakfast practice.

Tradition is such a big part of the Christmas holidays. I have often thought that as the girls got older, they would not miss a tradition or two – mention that possibility and immediate cries fill the air. “We have to do that; it’s tradition!”

Wielinski tradition allows only one person at a time to open a present. This practice earns glares and protest from the guys, who think this process takes far too much time. We have scaled down gift giving, but adhere to this policy. This year’s gift exchange took about two hours. Not bad for eight participants.

Doug’s presence seemed especially strong this Christmas. I gravitated to the Clarence Flea Market searching for unique gifts for my sons-in-law. I felt Doug’s approval as I purchased two sturdy glass Iroquois Beer mugs for Jeff and Dan. Doug would have considered the mugs a good find – a reminder of my Schwab family history with the old Buffalo brewery. Many times during my shopping excursions, I saw items I knew Doug would have enjoyed: his childhood favorite, Hopalong Cassidy, appeared on a metal shooting game, and several souvenirs from the Pan American Exposition held in Buffalo in 1901 would have been welcome in his collection.

Tradition still makes it necessary for me to hang stockings for the girls. When Jill revealed that Dan had not given her a stocking this year, I chuckled when he explained, “I didn’t have time to shop for knick-knacks this year.” He really does have that right; what else would you call a fuzzy cat tape measure, small wooden cat, and Santa bottle stopper?

The spirit of Christmas does take on more meaning when a little child enters the scene. Last Christmas our greatest gift was my granddaughter’s arrival at home. Lydia had spent four months in the hospital after her premature birth in August. This year she is a lively toddler who lives up to that title as she “toddles” around from place to place, demonstrating her newly acquired walking abilities. My heart sings when she smiles at me, or approaches me with open arms. I scoop her up, and not only I, but Doug, too, embrace her.

Christmas Day continued in a leisurely fashion – gifts to admire, drinks to sip, snacks to nibble before the pork and dumpling dinner. Then basketball games and bits and pieces of "The Christmas Story" on TV over and over again, and reminiscing about Christmases past.

Simple pleasures – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Karen Wielinski and her daughter Jill are the only survivors of the 2009 crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence, which destroyed their home and killed Karen’s husband, Doug Wielinski. Her book, “One On the Ground,” will be published in 2017.

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