December 18, 2015

Christmas Memories

Despite distance, spirit of Christmas will always be a family tradition

By Mark Hummer

It was last year, the Christmas of 2014. My wife Siming and the kids and I were keeping up a Hummer tradition by having Christmas Eve at my Uncle Ken and Aunt Jan’s house in west Toledo, Ohio.

Before they lived there, my grandma and grandpa Hummer lived there, and then my grandma Hummer did after my grandpa died.

My dad called to wish everyone a Merry Christmas in his special way. But in a dramatic tone of voice, he stated that my mom and dad’s septic system had gone out. He added that as much as they were looking forward to seeing all of us, it would be best not to come because of the condition of the house, the yard and the mess.

My wife Siming told my dad, “Fine, have it your way, we will see you when the weather gets better in spring.” Then she turned around and looked at the kids and me and said, “You know what? We are going to go to Holly, Michigan, to see grandma and grandpa.”

She continued, “We are going to surprise them. I came here to America at Christmas time in 1991 from Shanghai, China, with $300 to my name. It’s not about amenities. It is about the spirit of Christmas and family.”

Before we made the drive from Ohio to Michigan to see my mom and dad, all of us went to a local Longhorn steak house in Maumee, Ohio, and purchased meats, salads, sides and all the trimmings so my parents would not have to worry about food.

When we arrived at their home, I knocked on the door and said to my mom, like on the Gomer Pyle TV show, “Surprise! Surprise!” That gesture and time spent that day meant more than I could have possibly imagined. It captured the real spirit of Christmas, my Uncle Kenny said.

Ever since I was a little kid, through my teen years, college days at the University of Toledo, and later during my young adult and now family days, I enjoyed and looked forward to the annual Christmas Children’s Wonderland in Maumee. Its exhibits and characters captured the real meaning of the season. What made it even more special was that in 1993 when my wife’s mom came from Shanghai for a visit, I took her there and explained all about the real meaning of Christmas. It took on a whole new outlook for her, having come from a communist country.

From 1997 to 2007, I was employed as activity coordinator at A Caring Place Adult Day Service Center in Indianapolis, and every year the Hummer house would host the annual staff Christmas party. Providence Sister Susan Dinnin, the site manager, always enjoyed the Polish gift exchange. And I always looked forward to the Caring Place family Christmas dinner, where the family members were able to get to know better the different staff members.

Another Hummer Christmas tradition has been the annual St. Christopher Parish’s Breakfast with Santa. The kids and I always enjoyed the fellowship, as well a good, hearty, old-fashioned, big breakfast.

(Mark Hummer is a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis.)

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