It’s interesting how a few flashback frames of memories remain in one’s brain from childhood, pulled out for reflection and recollection by a question or an incident.
Whether totally accurate or simply the brain’s filtered protective rearrangement recollection, such memories provide a simple yet symbolic snapshot into one’s past.
Last week, a local media outlet sent me a Christmas questionnaire including the request for a favourite memory. That opened my cranial floodgate.
When it comes to Christmas, I have so many wonderful treasures to re-examine, which inspires the age old question hovering around the chicken or egg theory: Do I love Christmas so much because of the wonderful memories or do I choose to remember only the good memories because I so desperately want to enjoy Christmas?
Since this is my column, I will choose option one.
There are multiple factors for my Christmas passion including gift giving and getting (who does not like getting a present?), the lights and songs, the plethora of sweets to forage, and the overall festive nature of the season.
I also cherished Christmas as a child because it was the one time of year I knew my sometimes ferocious father found a soft side.
Most of all, though, it is family, friends and fellowship that make Christmas Day and the entire holiday season special to me.
Of those multiple smile-inspiring memories, it is ones centred around fellowship that shine brightest.
My maternal Grandpa Atkinson, who ironically like my father was usually a fairly serious, no fuss no frills man, began the marvelous memories.
Grandpa survived two wars carrying both physical and mental scars to his grave and never shied away from frankly calling things as he saw them.
However he loved Christmas—and no one walked the walk better than he when it came to the true spirit of the season.
Family tradition dictated Christmas dinner for many years at Grandma and Grandpa’s, which always meant a meal with strangers.
Perhaps because of his war experiences and work later with veterans who had been forgotten by their own people, Grandpa always opened his home at Christmas to not only family but guests with nowhere to go.
It was not uncommon to have two or three total strangers at the table who humbly arrived with the knowledge that a warm meal and warm home awaited.
I grew up not fully aware that more often than not the various waifs Grandpa brought home for Christmas dinners were indeed total strangers to him as well.
He would bring home former veterans from the Royal Canadian Legion, or a homeless person from the street (yes there were homeless folks even back in the ‘good ole days’).
It was the mixture of emotions from such experiences that I believe most influenced me then; the joy the dinner guests showed for some company and warm food, and the sorrow I felt realizing the loneliness those guests held the rest of the year.
Even as a child, I understood how fortunate I was.
As time went by my father and mother continued the tradition of opening their home to strangers and those without a place to be at Christmas.
For the past 35 years or so that family tradition has become mine.
Christmas at the Hodge house, stuffed full of decorations and music, has often involved strangers or folks with no other place to go.
Even during a couple years where I was single and alone I would make the effort to throw open my home, and I believe I gained more joy and pleasure from the effort than my guests did.
So this year, hopefully, Tez and I will share our humble home with granddaughter Chelsea, great-grandchildren Arya and Stanley, and one or two folks who have no other spot to be.
I also know there will come a point in the day or the night when a memory of Mom and Dad and especially Grandpa will flash through my brain— and I will grin.
Like tradition and Christmas, my grandfather lives on in my mind and heart. Not because of what he so much did for me as for what he did for others.
Bless you Grandpa, you grizzled old war vet.
Speaking of traditions, it is time once again to send in your names for Charlie’s Angels Christmas list.
The criteria is simple. All your angel has to have done is something nice, from a needed smile at the right moment to saving your life or helping someone else.
Please take a few minutes and jot down the name(s) of people you consider angels in your life with a brief reason why they deserve the recognition.
Send your list to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will run them in next week’s Hodge Podge.
Deadline for Charlie’s Angels Christmas List submissions is Wednesday, Dec.16.