Saturday, December 26, 2009

Life Cycles

Yesterday morning was simply spectacular. Not only were Margaret, Suzanne, Rob and I all in the same place at the same time, which happens infrequently, but we were gathered together for a wonderful reason and with no particular time constraints upon us, which absolutely never happens. At first blush one would think that would have been enough to make for a pitch-perfect morning. And one would have been correct.

But yesterday was not only a hot fudge sundae-type of day, it was a sundae with the cherry on top-type of day. For yesterday morning Joe joined us in the commencement of our Christmas Day merrymaking. The five of us ate breakfast together, surviving my annual effort at morning cooking (it is the one day a year that I make breakfast) and then migrated into the living room for the opening of presents.

Once upon a time - OK, when the kids were in fact children - I used to take a "before" picture of the living room. It proved useful in preserving the scene for posterity when mere moments later it was gone forever - lost to the ages in a whirlwind of wrapping paper and bows. I still take the picture although the pace of the package-unwrapping has slowed perceptibly. Whether we have grown older or more mature I know not. I know that I do like the fact that the slower the process goes, the longer the morning lasts.

And yesterday morning we were - for the first time - joined by Joe in the gift exchange. He is an extraordinary fella, my father-in-law, coming through what was a tough couple of days for him - his first trip to the rodeo without his beloved Suzy - with flying colors. His reaction to each gift that he received yesterday was genuine excitement. He tried on a sweatshirt that we bought for him, he leafed through a book that we got for him and he flipped through a couple of weeks on his 2010 "origin of words" calendar. There may be no greater feeling than looking at the face of someone about whom you care and seeing their happiness. Yesterday morning was a time of great feelings. They were everywhere.

Oh yes - the cherry atop the day's sundae. It was Joe's reaction to seeing the bicycle we bought for him. He was so happy he cried. To the untrained eye - such as mine - it does not appear to be an extraordinary bicycle. It is not especially fancy or sporty-looking. It is an "Upland Beach Cruiser" and it looks as its name suggests. It looks like a bicycle you would see someone riding on the boardwalk. Yet it was exactly the type of bicycle Joe wanted - and has apparently longed for for a long time.

He was so excited about the bicycle that he shared with the four of us a story of him and a bicycle he had as a little boy in Brooklyn. It was a story that I had never heard before and was surprised to learn from Margaret that she had never heard it either. Joe lives approximately a half mile from us. While he had driven to our house yesterday morning, he rode his new bicycle home. The fact that the weather was chilly and the roads were wet was of no consequence to him. He threw on his coat and his hat and pedaled off.

And with his smile serving both as his umbrella and his security blanket, he made it home warm and dry. His maiden voyage on his new "ride" was a success. Better than that, his Christmas was a success. And by extension, that made Christmas a success for all of us.

-AK

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