Best Birthday Gift-The Gift of Presence

Today, in my genealogical blog, Mixed Genes, I highlighted a landmark from the past; namely, the Haynes’ Store in Sharon Center, PA. As I wrote the little bit of narrative to accompany the pic, I found myself reliving Halloweens when we would go to Grandpa and Grandma Haynes’ place, attached to their store. Halloween meant receiving a handful (or two) of penny candy from the store, or after they had sold the store and moved into a trailer on my Grandpa Mix’s farm, it would be Chicken-in-a-Biskit crackers.

Grandma Haynes (Laura Vivien Meacham, but always called Vivien) taught me how to do a game from her childhood in the 1890’s; cat’s cradle. She also taught me how to play the card game FLINCH. She helped inspire me to get involved in genealogy, when she would tell me stories about her parents and grandparents. I especially liked the story of how her grandmother, Nancy Ann (Foy) Meacham came over to America from Ireland on a ship and all that she had to do. (You can read more about Nancy Ann Foy here).
HOWEVER, my favorite memory of all is when I turned 8 years old in 1970. It was the first birthday party that I remember having and I believe the first one ever where I could invite someone other than close relatives.

This picture of me, excited as all get out, surrounded by my great-grandpa and great-grandma. Looking at the photo now, I STILL can feel the excitement and joy of that day. I’m sure they gave me a gift to unwrap, but it is their presence I remember, not the presents.

And I remember that one of the names prophesied about Jesus was that he would be called “Emmanuel;” which literally means “God is with us.” I think that’s why my favorite saying from Jesus is ” I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He gives us the gift of presence!

OK, so this day has been a serious walk through memory lane. But it’s memories like this that help me remember the extreme importance of being there to witness my son in a first grade Christmas play where he just says two lines of about 15 words. And going to Little League practices, and on and on and on. It’s simply the gift of being present that makes the difference. A shared memory. A present of time.

And now, I have a grandson who just turned two just last week. He calls me “Poppop.” His mom, my daughter, is very conscientious and attentive, for which I’m thankful. My wife and I had that role when she was in our home. But now, like my grandparents and great-grandparents did with me, I’m the grandpa, and one of my roles is to be a giver of gifts, like my grandparents and great-grandparents were for me.

And the very best gift I can give is the present of presence.

AND… by the way, I AM present in this picture behind the camera.

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