, Gloucester, MA

December 21, 2012

Personal Matters: Sharing the best of the holidays

Personal Matters
Susan Britt

---- — Over the 16 years I shared my thoughts in my “Personal Matters” column in the Philadelphia area, and during my four years here at the “Gloucester Daily Times” I have asked column readers to share with me the story of their most meaningful holiday. It is my privilege to share some of them with you:

“The Gift”

“Before I was born, my grandmother sewed a layette of beautiful baby dresses, even though no one (except her) was sure that I would be a girl. She was thrilled and excited when I was born but unfortunately, she died 5 months later. Her other daughter, my mother’s sister, was only 16 when my grandmother died and this young teenage girl was very much affected by the loss of her mother.

The baby dresses that my grandmother made were sewn by hand with embroidery and lace, such as you wouldn’t see today. In those days, though, handwork wasn’t valued as it is today and my mother gave them to me to put on my dolls. Over the years, all but two disappeared.

A few years back, I found these little dresses again, some 40 years after they were made. I took one of the dresses and had it laundered and put it in a shadow box that could be hung on the wall. I sent it to my Aunt for a Christmas present and I was more excited about giving this gift than I ever was about receiving one. It arrived on December 23rd, which was the anniversary of the day her mother was buried. That was a meaningful Christmas for both of us because, until then, we had very little left to remember my grandmother by.”

“Keeping It Simple”

“In October, I went for my annual pap test, expecting the usual clean bill of health. However, my doctor called saying that the lab reported ‘atypical cell formations.’ When I had additional tests done, I was told that the tissue looked possibly pre-cancerous. He performed a biopsy and I waited 4 days for the results.

During those four days, I had to face the possibility of the worst outcome. I was terrified. I realized that, if I was ill, I might not see my children grow up. I made up my mind that, no matter what the outcome, I would make my time with them the most important thing in my life.

It turned out that I did not have cancer. My relief was enormous. But good came out of a bad experience because I’ve completely rearranged my priorities. This Hanukkah, I’m not making a ‘drop dead’ dinner that will impress everyone else but leaves me exhausted. I’m keeping it simple because the important thing is to spend time with the people you love. This holiday is my most meaningful.”

“Brotherly Love”

“As a child, I was always close to my 12 years older ‘big brother.’ When I was 8 and he was 20, he went into the Navy. He wrote home that year, saying that he couldn’t get leave for Christmas. Our family was resigned to our first holiday without him. On Christmas Eve, we put up the tree and put on the Christmas music but it just wasn’t the same. In the wee hours of the morning we heard someone come in the front door. It was my brother, who had gotten a last minute leave and a last minute Greyhound to our home.

Now we’re both middle-aged but in my most meaningful Christmas memory, I’m a thrilled 8 year old looking down the stairs at a beaming young sailor.”

The special lesson of these stories is that the most meaningful holidays are not about expensive gifts or whirlwind social schedules. The most meaningful holidays are those in which we understand, perhaps for the first time, our spiritual and emotional connection to others.

Based in Rockport, life oach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at and by telephone 978 546-9431.