Isn't it funny how times change?

Christmas may or may not have ever been the Norman Rockwell painting of grandpa standing at the head of the dinner table; Head down in prayer, carving knife in hand, surrounded by family, as one of the kids sneaks a piece of ham, or a present from under the tree. But Christmas today is something different and unique to each of us.

Many of us have circumstances in our lives where we may, or may not, be where we want for the holidays. And it doesn't seem like families are what they used to be.

Economics and relationships take many of us far away from each other. In my own family, we range from Northern Michigan to south Florida, west to California and all points in between. Instead of walking around the block to get the proverbial cup of sugar and catch up on family happenings, we now communicate via Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Pinterest and any number of online mechanisms. But it's better than nothing if you consider that 100 years ago, when someone moved 100 miles away, you would probably never saw them again.

Regardless, you would remember them with the photos and memories we all share of Christmas’ past.

When I was a kid, I can remember my parents packing us up and going to my grandmothers’ homes. We lived in Detroit at the time. One held dinner early and the other later.

Although the family members were different, both events were the same: They were loud and busy. Each held a cornucopia of food and of course, everyone’s special dessert. In my mind's eye, I can still see and feel the love in the room.

As children we were seated at the “kids table” which was usually a large old couch or a couple of card tables off to the side. When you were young it was an okay place to sit because you were surrounded by cousins your own age. But you always looked forward to the day when “they” said you could move to the adult table. It was something along the line of “wait till next year.”

As we all know, the river of time slows for no one. The circle of life continues as new family members join as they are born, while others arrive through marriages and new friendships. And through the passing of the older generations.

And the way we celebrate holidays change due to the circumstances we live in a well.

I recall one year being far from home and broke. We had homemade chicken soup for dinner. The neighbor across the street gave us a pumpkin pie. A friend brought over a can of cranberry sauce and some rolls. We scraped enough money together to have a toast with a $2 bottle of Boone's Farm.

When I was stationed in Bamberg, Germany, dinner there was held at my squad leader’s house, Sgt. Mike Blowers. His wife made us an incredible meal and he offered to let use to use their telephone to call home … A rarity in those days.

This year we’ll celebrate at my sister Kelley’s home in in Waterloo, Illinois. My siblings, children, mom, nieces and nephews are all going. She has been fighting the cancer battle for some time. This will be her last Christmas.

We will eat, play euchre, cry. I will take bear sausage from the bruin I harvested this fall, and my nephew, Ian, will have sausage sticks from his first deer. We will tell our stories (mostly exaggerated) and have fun. It will be a Christmas like no other … one of a kind.

And even though none of these are what Christmas was for me as a child, they are each still a celebration of what’s important in our lives:

Family, friends and the opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves; A time to give thanks for what we have, not to worry about what we don't.

If you're not in the same room as the people you care about, text, call, Skype or send a Facebook note. Let them know they are loved and missed. And that regardless of where you may be, you are celebrating the memories and traditions of Christmas memories past, as well as building new memories for the future.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

  • Mark