When I was ten years old, I remember looking for my dad by following the sound of men’s deep laughter and the slight scent of tobacco drifting under the door leading into our family’s garage. I slowly pulled open the door and stuck my head through to see what my other senses couldn’t decipher.
It was cold in the garage, which was to be expected for mid-December, so the men had a space heater that looked like some small jet engine roaring flames as they sat in a semicircle by the open door. I found the image striking.
Here, in our little family garage, with our bikes hanging from the ceiling at one end, gravel sprinkled on the floor to soak up the oil from the Wagoneer, and my father’s workbench lining the opposite wall (not to mention all the other “stuff” that seemed to find its way into piles and boxes and chaos), sat my dad and a few of his friends laughing and smoking cigars.
What struck me was how they seemed to be stealing a moment from the world around them. The holidays demanded full attention through the form of school plays, restless kids home on break, preparations to be made for parties, guests and family to be sent the perfect thing that lets them know just how much you love them… even as a young boy I knew that Christmastime could be a bit of a whirlwind.
Only recently, as I sat in the kitchen playing cards with my wife and my sister-in-law and her husband, was I struck again by what have become some of my favorite moments during this season: the quiet, stolen moments, where everything slows down and the world outside of the room pulls back for a little while. I’ve felt this early in the morning with a cup of tea in-hand while watching a deer cross our backyard. One of our favorite things to do as a family just before going to bed is to turn off all the lights in the house, sit by the tree, and watch the lights and the stars and snow behind.
As the world speeds up, as our culture cries out for us to consume, as I find myself slipping into the excuse of business (even with family), it’s not easy to slow down enough to grab an opportunity when it comes along. But when I do, it’s those moments that I remember years later.
This month, I’m looking forward to the boisterous meals of our growing family, and the acting games we play in front of the tree, and to the tradition we created without really meaning to: where the kids all play cards in Luke’s room once our parents have gone to bed and we talk about our lives and what we would name our spaceship if we had one.
As a young man, I’ve been able to join my father and his friends several times now for their stogies in the garage. Like mornings with tea or late evenings sitting before the tree, those moments that I take hold of, appreciating what and who is around me, watching time slow for just a minute… those “stolen moments of the holidays” are truly my favorite.
Hope you find a few of your own this holiday season.