Within five days of Christmas and I was praying to my father today. Sitting in sight of an altar to St. Joseph, I asked my father for help. All his careful planning had brought his family each year to a Christmas that provided something for each of us. On Christmas Eve each year he used to sit at the kitchen table and cut up apples and oranges for the fruit salad that would chill overnight and be served at meal's end the following afternoon.
He was a quiet man. His opening of gifts on Christmas Day was accomplished in a corner armchair with no show, no exclamations, no insistent expressions of gratitude. He knew my mother needed her space amid the stacks of presents we laid at her feet.
What do parents think when their grown children try to do Christmas for them? What do parents think about their own children's lives that look different in so many ways from how their own once looked? I want to think they had startled their own parents once upon a time, once upon a Christmas. I want to think that all the generations had sighed over bowls of fruit salad year in, year out, and had wondered -- each of them -- when they were going home.