Maybe some of the joy leaves us with age, but age is not the only thing to blame.
We are a society that lives our lives with the help of counseling and anti-depressants. And before you jump on me, I am not saying either one of those is bad because they help many people.
Yet we have more material things than we have ever had.
My mother’s sister, Elaine, has been married to Richard Gray for many years. Richard is the son of the late Charlotte and Vechael Gray.
Almost every year at Christmas, Richard and Elaine give out gifts that are priceless.
We have received a copy of the Free family tree dating back many generations. These family trees are complete with pictures of our ancestors.
They have also given us a couple of videos from Christmases long ago when I was merely a child.
It was a time when the entire family would gather at the home of my grandparents, Howard and Cleo Free. It was also a time when no one in the family had much in the way of material things.
Yes, we had plenty of food and clothes. But none of us had a lot in the way of extras.
It was that simpler time and place on Teasley Street in Canton. The old home had a front porch swing that was used nightly by my grandparents. They would sit and talk to each other or anyone else who might stop by for a visit.
These Christmas tapes are dear because they truly show my family in a time of true joy. Everyone laughed and was joyful despite the fact that there was really not a ton of gifts to be given.
But it didn’t matter. They gave us what they could. My grandparents had five children who all had spouses and children.
It would be tough to buy for a family of that size today much less in the 1960s and ’70s. But those gatherings were never about the gifts. They were about family.
Richard and Elaine made another tape of later Christmases after the grandchildren had grown up and had families of their own. In these tapes, it is so evident that the same joy we experienced as a child was no longer there.
Everyone was quiet and there was little laughter. Yet everyone in the room had more than my grandparents ever had. But they didn’t have their joy, me included.
It seems that we continually want more. We can never get enough. And many will do everything they can to obtain their every want.
And yet, when we get what we want, we want another, only a bigger and better one.
I appreciate Richard and Elaine for the hours of work they put in to the unique gifts they have given our family. It’s something Granny Free would have been proud of.
Some of you may think that my columns are frivolous and useless. I am always talking about the past.
But it’s the past that made us who we are on the inside. I feel quite confident that the story I just told doesn’t only apply to my family. There will be some of you that will see a reflection of your own family as you read this.
We are once again in tough financial times. Many people are having a hard time making ends meet.
Our parents and grandparents knew how to grow their own food. They knew how to sew and make their own clothes. Tough times taught them how to stretch the meal when the family would gather.
You see, my generation doesn’t have that gift. We never slow down long enough to learn how to survive.
We just keep chasing the dollar while believing that some way that will bring us happiness.
Maybe our parents share the blame. They wanted us to become more than they were. But if we look in the mirror, we know we fell short.
I write this to say material things will never bring you joy. Money can’t buy happiness.
For that simpler place and time I talk about can be anywhere we choose to be. Because it’s in our hearts. I hope you all visit that place this holiday season.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.