A Christmas of Tears

A lot of folks joke about "homemade" presents, but I'm a big fan. If I had the time and didn’t wallow in procrastination, I would be able to make all my Christmas gifts each year. This year I unfortunately made nothing - but the kind of gifts I received this year can’t be bought. And, coincidentally, they all involved the word “Daddy.”

My sister, bless her soul, has been spending countless hours working on our family genealogy on our father’s side. Unlike our mother with her close family, Daddy (who died at age 64 in 1980) presented us with only one memorable relative - his mother, who died when we were adolescents, so we didn’t know her that well. Our dad, as I’ve posted before, was one of a kind. His experiences in life gave him a social conscious that became his passion and directed his choices. In his life, he did everything from touring in a bell ringer group to being a clerk in the army to being a choir director for decades. What led up to this remarkable man’s life? Who are the people and what are the events that shaped his mind? My sister, using Daddy’s journals and detailed records, went on a fascinating journey, starting in 1747 when Thomas Tiffin was born “somewhere in North Carolina.” Every once in a while she would send me e-mails of various facts she had learned, and I had often wished I had them compiled in a chronological story format to enjoy. She gave me that this Christmas in a book she created, including family history up to our current kids and grandkids, with scanned photos ancient and new. She did all the work and I (and future generations) get to reap the benefits. What a gift! What a treasure! I cried, of course.

Then my daughter and her husband worked tirelessly to transfer our silent home movies (from the ‘50s through the ‘70s that my father took) from VHS to a digital format, burned onto DVDs. She gave them to me with a poignant letter about how watching every minute of these hours of family history affected her, how she realized she had been born into a family that loved each other, and loved her. She said she cried many times during the process. She cried tears of joy that she had been born into such an environment, and she cried tears of sadness that my Daddy, her grandfather, died a month before she turned 2 years old, and she described the heartbreak of never knowing him - and that this gift of home movies was basically his gift to her almost 30 years after he left this earth. I got a double gift - the gift of my precious home movies in a format that assures their continued existence, and the gift that my daughter had such an emotional reaction realizing how blessed our family has been. She wrote, “It was surreal to see my parents get married, my pregnant mother walk around, and to see Papa stroke my baby back and Paw-Paw tickle my baby feet...I can only hope that one day my girls will remember their childhood and family as fondly.” She cried when she presented it to me, and I cried when I received it.

Finally (besides giving me comfy gloves and slippers that I needed desperately) my son and his wife presented me with the ultimate homemade gift when they told us recently that Sarah was pregnant with their first child which will be born this summer! More tears of happiness from me - and I still can hardly believe that my “baby” is going to be a daddy, and that around July 2010, I will get to hold our third beloved grandchild.

I cried a lot this Christmas season. I was blessed to see the march of time from 1747, through my father’s exceptional life, through the growing-up years of my sister and me, then through making preparations to welcome a new baby to the family and beyond. I got to travel through memories of the past and hopes and dreams of things to come. I found it highly appropriate that this Christmas, I felt a little like Scrooge and his whirlwind journey through time.

All the money in the world could not buy the “homemade” gifts I received this Christmas of 2009!