Christmas is a special time in our family. Our daughter Maggie loves decorating the tree, and her brother Robert is now tall enough to decorate the top third — that she and I cannot reach.
The Christmas celebrations in my husband's family are legendary and fun. They remind me of how blessed I am to be part of a large, loving, generous family. The family party, Christmas Eve at Nanny's and Christmas Day at his Aunt Gayle and Jimmy's as well as Christmas day dinner is at our home with my fairy godmother and her family, are the highlights of the season.
Blessed indeed are we.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is one of my favorite times of the year. When I was growing up, it was when my family visited my grandmother in Columbus, Georgia, (with the kittens in tow that Santa had brought my sister Kathy and me one year). In college, it was when I took a break from studies and focused instead on running, reading and sleeping. As a young professional working in finance, it was when I worked: wrapping up the old year and preparing to get the year ahead off to a quick start.
When my children were toddlers, it was when I let them play for hours with whatever toys Christmas had brought them. Now, as the mother of teenagers, it is when I let them sleep, and sleep and, well - occasionally eat.
During this time, we bathe in the afterglow that comes from having celebrated Jesus's birth at Christmas, a reminder that we are all saved by his grace alone rather than by any actions of our own. This grace-saving reminder is then complemented by the tantalizing thought of personal resolutions that, if kept, might lead to a better life.
It's also a time to reflect on what was and what has been, and to be thankful for what is coming to a close at the end of the year. That includes both the good — the joys and accomplishments — and the bad — which we can pride ourselves on having survived.
For many people, it's a time between times. Without a set schedule, and with holidays on either end, it's easy to get our days mixed up and forget if it's Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
This year was marked by political turmoil, celebrity breakups and deaths of family friends and relatives and those iconic celebrities loved by many whom they had never met. Possibly the knowledge that the year is coming to an end is solace for many.
In an attempt to loosen my focus on control, I decided last New Year to forgo resolutions for 2016 and to focus instead on joy. Without any resolutions, I need not report on my lack of progress.
But I can report that I succeeded well in the joy department. The best times this year for me were those I spent with family, watching our daughter cheer, play violin and host over a dozen friends for an overnight party; watching our son play string bass with his band; and watching both perform in the high school play.
We celebrated 50th birthdays three times this year in our home: our brother-in-law, Roger, my husband, Jimmy, and me. I love the laughter and conversation echoing throughout the house. To me it's an auditory expression of love and friendship.
Another of this year's highlight for me has been battling wits as a guest on the "Political Rewind" radio show on Georgia Public Radio with Bill Nigut. The political discussions kept me on my toes and gave me the chance to work with really smart, dedicated people.
My toes and the rest of me got a workout during the tennis matches that provided me with both an outlet for exercise as well as a social outlet with team members whom I have grown to love. We even made it to the playoffs (who said pigs couldn't fly?). For me it's meditation in action.
This weekend, my sister Kathy and her husband Paul, as well as my father Newt and his wife Callista, are joining us to ring in the New Year. I cherish the time that we get to spend with the ones we love and so appreciate their visiting us in Atlanta.
But my year will not be complete until I thank you, too, dear reader, for joining me this year. Thank you. And, after you reflect on 2016 as it comes to an end, may you look forward to the joys of the year to come.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.