Each year as we enter the holiday season we all look to past and present traditions to continue in our home. Some traditions we take from our parents and our childhoods - and some we create without planning. These are the meaningful moments that stay with us each year.
One tradition we have in our home is to decorate our house for Christmas on Thanksgiving night. Once the turkey is done and the desserts put away, we send the kids to bed and head to the basement to pull out the Christmas bins. When our boys wake up the next morning, it is Christmas in our house. This tradition stems from our first Thanksgiving as a married couple: I was pregnant and almost due with our first child and I said to my husband: “we’re decorating tonight or it’s never going to get done.”
How fun this year to have my children old enough to help - to stay up past 8 o’clock and adjust our tradition to include our children. The evening concluded with a sweet story involving my six-year-old:
When we were settled on the couch, he gleefully got a piece of paper and a pen - and asked each of us to write down one thing we really want for Christmas. Afterwards he looked a little sad…I asked him what was wrong and he said, “But I don’t think I have enough money to buy what everyone wants…”
He was genuinely upset that the $11 in his piggy bank was not enough to purchase his brother an iPod Touch (FYI: Santa is not purchasing his brother an iPod Touch either!) Yet in his disappointment, I found pure joy. He got it. He understood the gift of giving. I tried to comfort him by giving him a hug and saying, “Edward, you are the spirit of Christmas!”
This year’s Thanksgiving tradition of decorating for Christmas gave me the greatest gift of the season: seeing in my children the greatest gift I can pass along to them: doing for others.
We live in Annapolis and we are big Navy fans, so the ND-Navy rivalry has been forefront in our minds and our lives for the past several years. We are also familiar with the famed Army-Navy game and have attended it with the family of our Midshipmen. How neat then, for us, to travel to New York City and learn the history of the Notre Dame vs. Army series.
Win one for the Gipper and The Four Horsemen I have of course heard of both of these famous-to-Irish-fans (and beyond) statements, but I never realized that they both related to the Notre Dame - Army rivalry. Nor did I realize that Notre Dame and Army dominated the national championships (and Heisman trophy winners) of the 1940s. Furthermore, I never knew that Notre Dame and Army used to play against each other in the old Yankees Stadium! What kind of Irish fan am I??!!
Notre Dame does a wonderful job of honoring their history while celebrating the present and planning for the future. This all comes together this weekend as ND plays Army in the new Yankees’ Stadium here in NYC. I think we can take a lesson from this: there is no one part of our lives that should dominate our well-being and thought process, nor define the way we live our lives. We too should honor our history while celebrating the present and planning for the future.
Jennie and I have been friends for almost 19 years; but I did not know this until I met her in 2007. The story of our friendship is one of my favorites.
Jennie’s children and my children attend the same school and I met her at a new family welcoming party when she first moved to Annapolis. The following week I recognized her at the grocery store, and knowing how hard it can be to be the “new person in town,” I made a point to say hello as we waited for my mom to order her Starbucks.
After thinking to herself that my mom was very detailed in her coffee order, Jennie noticed my mom’s Notre Dame Swimming t-shirt. Then the following dialogue began:
Jennie: Did you swim at Notre Dame?
Haley: I did.
Jennie: Did you know anyone who was in that bus accident?
Haley: Yes, I did.
Jennie: Were YOU in that bus accident? (getting louder…)
Haley: Yes, I was…(a little quieter)
Jennie: (louder still…) Did you know that poor girl who was paralyzed?
Haley: (getting quieter…) That was me…
Jennie: (LOUD) Oh my God! I prayed for you!!
With tears in our eyes we embraced and became instant friends; friends who had known each other in spirit and prayer, and yet had just met.
Jennie was a year ahead of me at Boston College and roomed with a swimmer. Notre Dame had just swam against (and at) Boston College at the National Catholic Championship meet in December 1991. The following month, our accident happened and the BC swim team was affected by the shock of the event, as were many other teams. Jennie’s roommate came back to their dorm room that day and asked Jennie to pray with her for the women of the Notre Dame swim team, especially for the two girls who were killed and the one still left paralyzed.
Over the years, Jennie thought about our accident. After marrying a Navy pilot and living a nomadic military life, Jennie was not immune from tragedy and accidents. She often wondered what had happened to that Notre Dame swimmer who was paralyzed. She found out standing in line at Starbucks, and we have been friends ever since.
How awesome to meet someone for whom you have prayed and to see that your prayers were heard. How even more awesome for me to meet someone who prayed for me, and to be able to say, Thank you.