From left to right: Kate, Terry, and Matthew from Terry’s wedding.

Sometimes, life gives you an opportunity.  Most people don’t see them because they come in the form of problems.  I confess that I didn’t used to see them for that very reason.  I couldn’t look past the immediate problem.  Luckily, over the last few years, I’ve cultivated that skill and now find that the habit is well entrenched.  Sometimes, what you learned while solving the problem itself is the opportunity.  Other times, having the problem creates the opportunity. Such was the case with Christmas 2010.

We had had a crappy year financially and, in terms of buying Christmas presents for the kids, it came down to a choice between buying them or groceries.  We weren’t going to be able to do both.  Taking all our empties to the bottle depot helped a bit and we were able to scrape together a little bit of cash so they’d at least have something under the tree Christmas morning. But, it wasn’t going to be much and we weren’t feeling too good about that.  We were struggling to come up with something, anything else to give them.

And then, just a few days before Christmas, it hit me.  When I was living in Calgary back in the mid-1980’s, my father and I had exchanged letters that had initially started out talking about the imminent arrival of his first grandchild and had become so much more.  I feel safe in saying that both of us treasure those letters to this day.  So, I thought, “What if we wrote a letter to each of the kids telling them just how proud we are of them?”  I ran it by Tracy and we both agreed that, while we’d prefer to get them better gifts, in light of our financial woes, letters would have to suffice.  So we wrote the letters and crossed our fingers when we put them under the tree inside Christmas cards for each of the kids.

And I’m sure that both of us held our breath as the three of them opened their letters simultaneously.

That was the best Christmas!  We cried together, laughed together, played together, and overate together.  I don’t think we could have bought anything that would have been as well received as those letters.  What started out looking like a crappy Christmas became the best Christmas we ever had.