It was tucked into a box sent along by my sister after our last visit to her family's home on the rugged shores of Lake Superior. It shows a little blond boy and a dark-haired man smiling at each other over a card table. Between them is a checker board.
"This is grampa," she said to a wondering grandson "And his father."
Yes. It's me and my dad, and not only do I recognize what we are doing, I know precisely when we are doing it. The card table is a dead giveaway, because, while the two of us played a lot of checkers over the years, it was only on a certain evening that we moved our game from the kitchen table to a special spot set up for us by my mother in the living room.
New Year's Eve.
I suppose some folks made a little more out of a big night like New Year's, but around my house, it was a time for a few snacks, ginger ale, a hot game of checkers and a few pots and pans to bang on come midnight.
And like the entire holiday season, it was a time for memories.
It still is.
It’s hard to imagine something more wonderful than having children and grandchildren home at Christmastime. We know that it might not always be that way, as jobs, schedules, commitments, distance and weather all play a part in making it tough for us to get our wish every year. So when we do, we know enough to appreciate what we've got. We smile and sing and laugh and talk and simply glow at the sight of grandchildren filling our pew at Christmas Eve Mass, at the sound of stories at bedtime, at the sight of their faces around our table. When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she looked at me in surprise.
“I’ve already got the only present I want,” she said.
I know what she means.
And when the house finally grows quiet, we sit and dream and smile and remember. We think of the golden days just past, and gather memories from years gone by. I look at that old picure. I remember. And I smile.
I'm betting he let me win.