In these hectic times, the holidays are vital to families

Déjà Vu: This column was originally published in the Journal-News, a newspaper distributed in Rockland County, New York, December 23,1991.

I'm re-publishing this column as part of my online blog. I still believe the message is appropriate today and is an example of the activities many of us with disabilities can enjoy in the United States, and perhaps around the world. Photos may be added to this posting from my collection or the web.

 Some of the organization names may have changed or no longer exist in New York State as of this writing.  I hope you find this column helpful and informative.
Christmas tree

This time of year is special for families. With the pressures families must face to survive these days, there were very few occasions that really bring family members together. That's why this holiday season is so important.

More than ever before, both mothers and fathers are working and nurturing separate careers. Children are in school and then off to day care centers or with "sitters" until the parents can pick them up. And, five-minute microwave meals barely give families enough time to sit together at the dinner table.

With hectic schedules and lifestyles like these, it's no secret that families are in trouble. There's really no time to share feelings or communicate the events of the day anymore.

In-laws and other relatives are under the same pressures. There is no time for extended families. The occasional birthday, Hanukkah or Christmas cards serve as a vague reminder that there are relatives in Florida, New Jersey or the Bronx.

Holidays are important because they give us a chance to reconnect with one another. They allow us to be reunited with loved ones, express goodwill and relieve the guilt we've accumulated during the year. Holidays also let us reestablish family ties, make up for lost time or forgive past sins.

As a child, the holidays were magical to me. I spent many holidays at the Bronx walk up apartment of my grandparents--Nana and Poppy to me. At Christmas, Nana and Poppy always had a huge Christmas tree. The smell of the tree and the decorative lights, some with moving "water bubbles," commanded my constant attention.

Although my grandparents lived modestly, their apartment was emotionally warm and filled with good things to eat. My brother Victor and I would immediately ask for the red and white candy canes which dangled on the branches of the tree. Tomato sauce for the pasta was usually simmering on the stove. Italian bread, pastries and salad sat on the table, waiting to be eaten. 

Mannorah, web
At the dinner table, my father and his two brothers would discuss sports, politics, or just disagree about things I didn't understand -- you know, the way brothers often do. The discussions would come to a sudden halt when my father would yell, "Jimmy, put that candy cane back," or, "get out from under the table!."

Looking back now, with today's economy as a backdrop, I don't know how Nana and Poppy could afford to feed their three sons, wives and children during our family gatherings. But they did, year after year.

I guess the values were different back in the early '60s, Poppy didn't work a lot of overtime or go on frequent business trips. Neither did my dad. My grandmother didn't work outside the home, Poppy spent a lot of time with us, especially after my father was killed in 1966 (My dad was 28 years old.).

Today, my eyes see life's events differently. Poppy died several years ago, Nana is almost 90. My brother is married and has his own son. My two sisters are professional career women. I'm 36 years old and disabled.

Muslim Great Day of Sacrifice, web

A disability can cloud the way you view the world, if you let it. My Christmas trees are not always real, nor do they seem as large as the ones I remember as a kid. But the holidays are still magical to me.

Watching my son and daughter enjoy the enchantment of the Christmas season removes many of the clouds over my eyes. Their smiles ease my pain, their wonder gives me hope, and their joy gives me pleasure.

There are many things to be concerned about in the world today. But I found that a strong family can help make things seem a little brighter.

If I were granted two wishes for the holidays, one would be to keep our family strong and hope that people would spend as much time as possible with the people they love. 

Here's the other: I wish all of you, and your families, a joyful holiday season.



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