Christmas In Fresno: A Reflection


I have just returned from my annual Christmas trek to Fresno to be with my family for the holidays.  These days the Christmas holiday season is such a bittersweet time of the year for me.

I had great fun shopping for some toys for Cole and Hannah with my youngest son, Jeremy.  Even though the actual shopping was hectic, as I have written about. That event, “Santa” Christmas shopping for Cole and Hannah, put the Christmas spirit back into my soul!  It was re-invigorating, and I might add, it also was an opportunity to have some all important one-on-one time with Jeremy!

The most exciting part of Christmas was watching Cole and Hannah open up their respective Christmas gifts.  The sheer joy and exhilaration that came over each of their faces as they opened up all their gifts really gives this old grandfather joy! Additionally, getting gifts from Cold and Hannah that they made for me was very special!

The Christmas holiday also comes with food, lots of food.  After the grandkids opened up their gifts, Stephanie cooked a little breakfast to begin the Christmas day eating fest.  After the breakfast at Jeremy and Stephanie’s, I had to hightail it over to my sister’s house for a “brunch” with my Mom, sister, nieces and nephews.  It was also a time to deliver Mom’s Christmas gift for her to open.  The morning-time also provided some quality time visiting with, and celebrating Christmas with my mother, as well.

The early afternoon found me back on the road again to Jeremy’s house for their Christmas dinner.  Also there for dinner was Jason and his girlfriend, Jana.  As is mostly the case, Jason, in all his creativeness, made everyone a Christmas gift.  And as usual, he did not fully accomplish the task for everyone!  Surprise, surprise, it was just Jason being Jason!!  Notwithstanding that fact, I always look forward to what his creativeness produced!

I was privy to know what he was creating for Cole and Hannah.  He and Jana were trying their hand at tie-dying.  Now for those who are familiar with Jason, know that tie-dye t-shirts and Jason are one and the same.  Hmmmmm, that’s kind of like me and NASCAR/sprint car t-shirts!!!  But I digress.  The finished product, the tie-dye t-shirts, were really cool looking for their first attempt at that process!  This could turn into a financial thing for them in the future!

Now I digress once again, but I must do so to explain the gift I received from Jason.  Last year Jason wanted a painting set for Christmas.  So I agreed to purchase this for his Christmas gift with one caveat.  I requested that he paint something for me.  Well, that is what I received from him for Christmas this year.  Not bad, it only took twelve months for my request to be honored!!!

Nevertheless, I am now the very proud owner of a Jason Hammack original abstract!!

This part of the Christmas holidays, the family gatherings, the grandchildren opening their presents, the excitement in their eyes as the unwrap those gifts, is the bright spot and the joyous part that thoroughly thrills my being.  The older I get, the more that I realize that it is truly better to give than to receive.  Additionally, the feeling of giving someone something that they really need or want is really heart-warming!

Therein lies my reasoning for the “sweet” part of “the bitter-sweet” feelings that I have surrounding the Christmas holidays.

The other feeling that I have associated with this holiday, that “bitter” part of the previously mentioned bittersweet feelings, stems from an incident that occurred on December 30, 1995.  At approximately 10pm on December 30, 1995, I lost  my best friend, and my hero!  That evening my father passed away, leaving a legacy of honesty, humility, and honor.  As the youngest of five children, those are very big shoes to try to fill!  I am finding that, after 16 years and with all of my efforts, I am hard-pressed to succeed in filling those shoes!

I miss you, Pop!

Therein lies my reasons for viewing the Christmas holidays with a bittersweet tone!

May all your New Year wishes come true!

Christmas Shopping In Fresno 2011

Once again I am fortunate to be able to make the Christmas trek back to my hometown of Fresno, CA.  With most all of my Christmas shopping accomplished a few months again Yuma, I felt somewhat leery about tackling what little shopping that was left for my grandkids.

Nevertheless, there was just a small portion of my Christmas shopping that was left, intentionally I might add, to be completed when I arrived in Fresno.  As it worked out, I was able to complete the toy portion of the shopping for Cole and Hannah with my son, Jeremy.  That, in and of itself, was lots of fun,and it served and enormous purpose!  I figured that who would know better what my two grandkids wanted for Christmas than their Mom or Dad?

I had scored a huge advantage!

As we entered into the “Kids Magic Kingdom”, better known as Toys R Us, the holiday shopper came out in both Jeremy and myself!  As we grabbed the ol shopping basket, it was obvious to me that we both needed to get tough and immerse our selves into the “holiday shopper/survivor” mode for this particular chore!

There were hundreds of carts trying to navigate the crowded lanes that encircle the rows of toys all stacked in their places.  The shopping carts were all jockeying to try to get the lead so that they could land one of their prized toys.

In actuality, watching the shoppers wheeling their shopping basket around the store resembled one of my favorite things to watch, Daytona or Talladega!  It was like a pack of race cars drafting each other until they reached the destination of their sought after toys!  Then there would be a sling-shot move to get into the lead, and grab that coveted toy before the other shoppers could have their chance!  Once we got into “the race spirit”, you could feel the adrenaline rushing through your veins!

I told Jeremy that I needed to be in control of the basket.  My reasoning for assuming control of the shopping basket comes from my past experiences.  I spent 2 1/2 years living in NYC back in the early 1980’s.  That experience of navigating through the sidewalks of New York City, walking shoulder-to-shoulder in that sea of humanity known as Manhattan, the experience of challenging the taxi cabs, as well as all the other car traffic in NYC at the intersections and cross-walks, I felt would give us an advantage navigating through Toys R Us!

Additionally, I thought that my knowledge of NASCAR, the bump drafting, the two car tango, and the knowledge of pulling off a sling-shot pass in a timely fashion would allow us to survive, grab our most coveted toys, thus allowing us to conquer the madhouse and even become a premier Toys R Us shopper!

Sports fans, it was game on!

With those thoughts in place, away Jeremy and I went, shopping cart, and shopping list in hand.  Initially I tried to be somewhat polite.  However, within just a few minutes of trying to navigate within the store, it was obvious that I must don my worst acquired NYC attitude, couple that with my NASCAR two car tango, and bump drafting techniques, it was time for full blown toy shopping!

Yes folks, we took no prisoners in our tour through the store.  As we aggressively steered the buggy on our shopping circuit. Occasionally we would bounce the cart off the rows of toys, other buggies, and now and then a few feet and toes that  had gotten in our way.  Nevertheless, never loosing our momentum!  Sorry about that!

Reflecting back on that shopping experience, it brings to mind the NASCAR commercial where the four businessmen bring back their rental car, badly wrecked with the side view mirror dangling.  The driver, in great NASCAR driver/crew chief form stated that, “overall he had a great car”.  “However, the front end was pushing in the turns”!  At that point, their boss slides his car to a screeching halt only after impacting their car.  His car, too, looked like it had been racing at Bristol Speedway, really bent, beaten, and crumpled up!

That my friends is what it was like shopping this week at Toys R Us for the last minute Christmas toys for the grandkids!  Overall, we had a great shopping cart!  However, at times it would be pushing through the turns, consequently, causing me to hit toys, other shopping carts, and run over a few legs, feet, and toes!

Maybe the other shoppers need to check into getting an Aflac or a Nationwide insurance policy!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!