Gifts to remember?and hold on to

?You can't always get what

you want. But if you try

sometimes, well, you just might find, you get what you need.?

?The Rolling Stones

And God said: ?If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other??

It wasn?t actually God who said that. Unless you worship Morgan Freeman, who played God in the movie ?Evan Almighty? and told this to Moses, or Steve Carell.

What better time than the holidays to consider patience, courage, and closeness? You may have no choice. ?Tis the season and you will see your family, so maybe it?s time to stop fighting it and give these traits a try.

Traditions are sometimes disguised as simply routine and aren?t recognizable while they?re happening. We don?t know if this year?s Christmas Eve dinner will be remembered 20 years from now, or if a certain gift will be that special one your kids will tell their kids about one day.

This month is ripe with chain e-mails celebrating traditions. They?re normally titled something like ?getting to know your friends better,? and have a list of questions such as ?colored or white lights? or ?what?s on top of your tree, an angel or a star??

One of the questionnaires I received asked, ?What is the best gift you got as a child?? That?s a no-brainer ?a Sit & Spin and a Dancerella ballerina doll that twirled and kicked with a push of her pink crown.

I loved that doll. So much that I just ran a search on E-bay and found her for $15.99. She was missing one pink shoe and some sequins on her tutu, but there she was. (And still is?I decided she might be a little less magical decades later. I would rather remember the feeling as an 8-year-old.)

Through all the years and all the gifts, these are the two that I remember. I?m sure I was excited about the other ones I received each year, but my memory proves one thing. That like me, my kids are not going to remember if they had two boxes or 10 this year or next. They won?t remember 90 percent of the things they get.

I?m listening to a memoir book on CD by Amy Tan, a Chinese American author who was raised by a morbid suicidal mother, who herself lost her mother to suicide. Some sort of insight is bound to come out of that kind of childhood.

Tan said she believes the past can be changed. At first, I didn?t think so. But she explained that because of interpretation, it can.

Your memories and your understanding of your memories are altered as you mature. This changes the past?or your interpretation of the past?which are basically the same thing.

This is important because holidays have a way of turning stressful. The reason for the season is nice. The idea of a festive holiday is nice. But the reality?the organizing, spending, baking, and planning, the relatives, the extended relatives, the buffets, the traveling?can be, well, not so nice.

The holidays seem to belong to everybody else, with no time left to just sit down and take it all in. That?s how it was last year, I?m sure of it.

Or was it? All I remember now is how happy my daughter was when we switched from white lights to colored lights on the tree. And that our dog ate an entire bowl of peanut butter balls. We were sure we would have to make an emergency call to the vet on Christmas morning. But she was fine and now we put lids on all of our bowls of chocolate.

That?s what happened last Christmas. That?s the past.

Sure, we spend too much, eat too much, and run around too much. I want some peace and quiet as much as the next guy.

We can?t always get what we want. But we might just find (maybe years later) we get what we need.

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