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Take time to savor your best gift of all

We imagine that at your house this morning, as at ours, the quiet of Christmas Eve has become once again the clamor of Christmas Day, with the crush of relatives, the crash of the first toy to be broken and the complete exhaustion from all the preparations finally hits home.

But when the excitement has settled down and you sit back to relax or just get a few minutes alone, allow us to offer advice.

Look at all the rushing around you did to get ready. See if, among the cards or the one more gift or the last-minute trip to the store, you can’t find just one thing you could have done without.

But I wanted it all to be perfect, you say.

There is no such thing as a perfect holiday, and we only disappoint ourselves if we try to make it so. That’s because no family is perfect. Uncle Joe hogs the eggnog. Grandma nods off during dessert. Cousin Lester can’t keep a job. Your sister Frances leaves the price tag on every gift so you’ll know how much she spent. The husband is the unhandyman around the house, and the wife will never make a cake that doesn’t fall as soon as it leaves the comfort of the oven. And the kids – goodness knows, they have a long way to go. Heck, the little one can’t even walk very well yet and he already wants a car. And his much-older sister lost her job and needs to move back in – just for a while.

But look at them all again as your day progresses and see them with an affectionate eye rather than a critical one. Uncle Joe walked a bride down the aisle, a bride whose father died young. Grandma loaned a couple the down payment for their first house and never mentioned it took five years to repay. Cousin Lester kept the yard mowed when the husband hurt his back; he pitched in for groceries when the doctor bills mounted. Sister Fran was the first to arrive after each child was born. The house has never been so clean since. The husband keeps trying to fix that leaky faucet and the wife keeps baking because the family doesn’t care what the cake looks like, only that it tastes good. Besides, they like to tease her and she takes it with a smile.

They’re not perfect; they never will be. Neither will you. Accept it and move on. Despite their faults, they’re yours, this group of amazingly similar yet distinctive people related by blood and by matrimony – or sometimes part of your extended family of choice, not chance. They’re yours.

That’s the gift we hope you receive this day: the realization that family is what counts, that home is what’s important, that having friends you laugh with – and sometimes cry with – and all the things that money can’t buy nor the passing years wither are the real gifts. They are the ones we should cherish, the ones that we’ll never outgrow. The wonder of it all – life itself – is the gift.

Bonnie Calhoun Williams is editorial page editor of the Anderson, S.C., Independent Mail. Scripps Howard News Services distributes her column.

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