Today my younger daughter and three grandchildren got up early to make the 11-hour drive from Baltimore so that they could be home for Christmas. This time they would drive through the blowing rainstorm of a recent front passage, but many times they have tackled snowfall icing the roads to make this trip. Once, the car broke down, and they purchased another one rather than wait for a costly repair.
As I thought about the motivation for such a trip I remembered coming home from college during the holiday season. Home was such a refuge from the stress of life. Like an oasis in the desert giving relief to a thirsty soul, it welcomed me to a tranquility and peace I was unable to find anywhere else.
My mother would anticipate my arrival by preparing my favorite foods. She insisted on waiting on me like I couldn't do anything for myself. She and the family were interested to know about my job and schooling while they tried to imagine what a life in the big city of Memphis must have been like.
When I arrived, the tension of an upcoming test or school project would take a backseat to the memories of good times from Christmases long ago. I always brought armloads of books to study just in case the worry of a book report crowded through the family time, but it never did. I'd carry the unopened books back to school in a few days.
The familiar neighborhood very sparsely decorated with Christmas lights would seem to come to life with thoughts about the ballgames in the yards of those up and down the street. My grandparents, who lived just across the street, would have a big meal planned where I could visit with aunts and uncles from nearby towns, seemingly reeling us all in with the ties that bound us together as a family. There would be humorous tales of happenings. One story would seem to bring about another till the good smells from the kitchen could be appreciated coming from the dishes on the dinner table.
I can remember when I first got to eat at the "grown-ups table." At the time, it seemed like an honor, a rite of passage reserved only for the mature, a person with knowledge of etiquette and civility. You had to be an individual who could make a meaningful contribution to the conversation.
So when my family comes, I want to nurture the ties, to relive the stories, to strengthen the bonds of love that the opportunity of Christmas affords each and every year.