It’s getting to that point – that point as a parent where I need to put a little more emphasis on the true meaning of holidays with my children.
The past couple of Christmases, I’ve emphasized to my girls the importance of family togetherness and the religious implications (into which I won’t wade too deep). Long gone are the days of them being more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than their new dolly or Leap Pad.
Being my wife’s daughters, our 4-year-olds are remarkably bright, and we have some surprisingly in-depth conversations about the reason for the season beyond jolly old St. Nick and the gifts they receive.
Holidays such as the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Memorial Day are slightly next level, in terms of the true meaning, but citing my previously stated logic about how my girls are thinkers, I’ve begun telling them these holidays are more than a day that daddy isn’t at work (at least not at the office), or get-togethers and those grilled hot dogs they can put away like Joanne Chestnuts.
After all, what harm could it do to tell them we have these holidays because of the sacrifices made by those who came before us?
Both of my grandfathers were veterans, so I’ve decided to start toeing that water, telling my daughters they fought in wars for our country to protect our freedoms.
I’m obviously not going to tell them that Grandfather Heimerman struggled until the day he died with the things he saw, the things he had to do, the moral compromises he faced.
There will come a day that I’ll wish I could tell them more about what he went through, but I can’t, because he couldn’t bring himself to tell a lot of his children, let alone his grandchildren.
But I can tell them that he’s one of innumerable heroes who protected this great nation in which they’ll grow up and, if I’m not deliberate about having those conversations, they might take it for granted.
Lord knows I did. I didn’t actively seek out those conversations with Grandpa. I was too busy in my own world, not nearly appreciative enough as a child, in my humble opinion.
As years passed, and in the past dozen years or so that I’ve been a journalist, however, I met so many others, covered so many initiatives for veterans, heard so many stories that made me appreciative.
I learned so much about what war did to our veterans’ minds, and the battles they continue to fight, and those they’ve lost by no fault of their own.
So much sacrifice. So many levels.
So when my girls enjoy the music, the fanfare and the fireworks at Hopkins Park, I remind them, if only briefly, what it’s all about. Outside of the holidays, I try to remind them to be grateful for everything.
This is me trying, Grandpa. And this is me grateful for what you, and so many others, sacrificed.
• Christopher Heimerman is the editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.