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Dear Ellie-bean

Posted Wednesday, December 22, 2010, at 6:48 AM

Welcome to Christmas 2010.

Of course this year you are only six-months old, so you may not exactly be overwhelmed by the occasion. This Christmas is solely for the benefit grandparents (mainly grandmothers) and -- you should pardon the expression -- for great-grandparents.

Next year will be better. By then you can wow your audience by smiling at all the stuff inevitably inundating babies, even if you do lose interest in a few moments. The best years will begin after your second birthday. Take my word for it; the following three to five years will be the best Christmas days of your entire life. These years you will someday recall as the magic years.

Despite any misgivings about being old enough for a great-grandchild, I will be glad to see you. As is my inclination, will probably play with you until you get fussy or something and great-grandmother takes charge. The best I can hope for is to be around for enough Christmases future that you will have some vague memory of me as a very old man. This is appropriate as the very fact that you exist makes me feel a very old, old man.

There is no way to know what my status may be by the time you are old enough to understand what Christmas is about (assuming anyone ever does). So, while I still am around and of more-or-less sound mind, I wanted to leave you something to read someday when you've learned to read and are old enough to understand.

Your first memory of Christmas will probably be the coming of a guy called Santa Claus. Whatever happens and whatever you come to believe in the years ahead, there really is such a being. My mother, your great-great-grandmother, always taught us Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas, "and wherever the spirit of Christmas is, Santa Claus is." I rather suspect that as long as mommies and daddies keep making great-granddaughters the spirit of Christmas will be around somewhere.

In a couple of years loving parents ought to be teaching you about the first Christmas when a baby named Jesus was born in a place called Bethlehem. This was a long time ago, even before your great-granddaddy came along. The gift-giving part of Christmas is supposed to come from the Magi bringing stuff to a very young Jesus. One supposes He, like you, played with His gifts until He got bored with them. If you have very loving parents they will someday explain who Jesus is, why He was born, and what He means. If you grow to be a wise and discerning young woman, His birth and life will make a difference in your life long after Santa no longer comes.

The lesson neither an old great-granddaddy nor anyone else can learn for you is that Christmas is for giving part of yourself to someone else. This is impossible to learn in the few short years just ahead of you, the magic years. If you are like most American children growing up receiving much which cost you nothing, it will be difficult to appreciate giving without hope or expectation of reciprocation. And, if you grow to adulthood thinking it's all about inundating your own babies with mere stuff, you may have missed entirely the truth about giving.

Christmas my dear Ellie-bean is about the spirit of Christmas, about the love of Jesus for you, about taking a part of your heart and risk giving it to someone else. Learn this, my dear first great-grandchild, and you will welcome Christmas at every age.

David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at kayanddavid@frontier.com.



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