Pots, Pans, & the Holidays: Gifts My Dad Gave Me

by Dr. Debra Payne / Dec 25, 2010 / 1 comments


     My father died two years ago, right before Christmas. I was devastated when he passed away, of course, but I was not sad about the timing. Dad always hated Christmas, anyway, for a variety of reasons. Chief among those reasons were how obsessive consumerism prevailed and how no one could ever measure up to the images of blissful holidays that are mercilessly inflicted upon us. 
     In contrast, Dad loved New Year’s Eve. When my sister and I were very young, he’d make us go to sleep at the usual hour on December 31st, but always with the promise of waking us up at 11:00 p.m., so we could scramble out of bed, bring out pots, pans, and big spoons, and watch the televised New Year’s celebration in Times Square. We would anxiously wait for midnight, and then clank and holler as loud as we could to welcome in the New Year. We’d start this in the living room, and then go outside on the porch and yell there, too!
     Dad never talked much, and he left the philosophizing to the vociferous, more opinionated folks, which, in retrospect, was mainly me. He never once explained why he did what he did during the holidays, but I imagine it was something like this:

The holidays are a time to reflect. They bring a natural nostalgia, and depending on the year, a melancholy that can hold us with a death grip if we are not careful. The consumerism that takes over the holidays is a farce, and religions don’t do much better, either. It is far more healing to relax, reflect without judgment, and breathe in the memories. Then let them go.


     I know many people who have endured a very difficult 2010. Some have had loved ones die. Others have faced unemployment, underemployment, divorce, and illness. The list of struggles could go on forever, I suppose, but listing them out is a rather pointless exercise. While the impact of some of these events may need to continue to be dealt with, the promise of resolution is here. Our most powerful stance is to stay present and focus on what’s here and what’s possible. The past is easy to let go of when we see that it cannot control us.

     Dad, I miss you. Thanks for all you taught me. Because of you, the brightly lit trappings of Christmas don’t lure me in, and I can refrain from trying to buy my happiness, even if it is marked to 25% off. And while I’m not there yet, I’m trying to let sadness and worry roll off me “like water off a duck’s back,” as you used to say.
     2010 has been a year of struggles, but also one of tremendous growth.  All years are like that, really.  Some years are worse and others are better, but all of them eventually end, leaving room for new experiences. The trick, I think, is to embrace all of it and be happy.


Happy Holidays to all of you. May 2011 find you joyful and in tune with all the happiness that life can bring you.

Yours truly,

Debra Payne

Comments (1)

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    13 years 5 months ago

    Debra - this is an amazing, beautiful, poetic journey you've shared with us. THANK you for sharing your dad - and his lessons! - with us. 


    Jessie Voigts, PhD

    Publisher, wanderingeducators.com

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