May your holidays be MEMORABLE

This past weekend was a “Patrick and Nana” adventure, and while we were together, my 10-year-old grandson said, “You’re not one of those people who thinks money brings joy to the world.”

“No,” I agreed. “I’ve been happy without money and sad with money, and money is just a tool, not a state of mind.”

“Money actually is the root of the universe’s problems,” Patrick said. “Music is what brings joy to the universe.”

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, I also believe music does bring joy to the multitudes. But what Patrick is too young, and literal, to fully grasp is that family or a sense of belonging and connectedness is what brings joy to the universe. “Family” in the way that you define it – those people around you on whom you rely for your truest sense of self worth and, hopefully, those people in your life who most support you in that reflection of yourself. Ideally, those good feelings are provided by blood kin, but we all know that’s not always the case.

Regardless of how you define your own “family,” the glue that holds it together is memories. And the greatest gift we can give someone, I think, is a good memory.

How can you wrap up a memory?

A few years ago, I told my family that all I wanted for my birthday/Christmas combo (they fall too close together for comfort) was a solo date with them. I told my daughters, I preferred it without kids or husbands. Just one-on-one time. Their gift would be planning the date (make it a surprise!) and my gift would be funding it. They got to pick the time, place, and activity – anything at all.

My husband was also in on the “memory” present, as was my son. Kevin took me to a bed-and-breakfast in Door County, and we got snowed in and then fought a white-knuckle drive in white-out snow on country roads (due to main road construction). But our memories of those couple days are wonderful just the same. Good glue.

In return, for Kevin’s surprise gift I flew in an old friend of his who lived in Michigan – a gal whom he hadn’t seen for years. I shocked him with a weekend visit with her at our house. That was great fun, too (the look on his face, especially, since he thought he was going to board a plane for a “trip to somewhere you don’t expect” versus greet a guest).

My son PJ went with us to the Dells with his kids to a waterpark. The one-on-one didn’t work so well with his toddler and infant, so the one-on-one commitment was waived and we all had a great time together. Another memory.

Daughter dates

Summer (left) and Brook (right).

My daughters are very close to one another and best friends, but given the right condition – a challenge of any sort – my daughters are also very competitive. Summer is a nurse. She set the bar for “best gift” very high by making arrangements to take me to Irish Fest in Chicago where my favorite band – Gaelic Storm – would perform. And she treated her old mum to a Guinness, too.

Brook is a Chicago cop. She works downtown Chicago and knows that scene. She took me to dinner at a hotel and then to a downtown club called La Baton. That is a nightclub where the women impersonators on stage are more beautiful than the women they impersonate.

The audience was about 99.9% women. “The website said about half are gay and half attend with bachelorette parties,” Brook told me. “Then there are the odd stragglers – daughters out with their mothers,” which gave us both a laugh.

“You always like adventures,” she added, “so I thought this might be a new experience.” We had a riotous good time, too, tipping, shouting. And bonus – La Baton serves Guinness, too. Except Brook wasn’t drinking. She was ordering orange juice in a place with a two-drink minimum cover.

“You don’t have to worry about the cost,” I told her. “The juice is probably more expensive, anyway, than a beer or a cocktail. Order what you want.”

Another OJ, she told the waitress, handing her a generous tip. Okay, her choice of beverage wasn’t financially motivated. I ordered another Guinness, figuring maybe she’d gone out the night before and needed a break.

During a break in stage action, my daughter turned to me and admitted that it was really hard to compete with Summer and Irish Fest, but she thought she was about to give me the best present anyway.

“This is certainly a lot of fun,” I assured her. “I haven’t laughed this much in years!”

“Mom, I’m pregnant,” she said. “Happy belated birthday.”

OMG. I grabbed her and kissed her right there and then. And then I had this moment of wondering how that would look, given where we were. “She’s my daughter,” I explained hastily to the nearest bystanders.

“We don’t care!” they shouted back. (I suspected they’d had more than two cocktails, because their celebratory mood was quite on display, too.)


I have a sticky family. And because of that, there is no one I’d rather spend time with than the characters in my family. All that time equates to memories, and that’s what brings joy to my universe.

I hope you all have the most joyous of holiday seasons, and Merry Christmas to you and to yours. May God bless you and keep you close.


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