by Nancy Love Robertson
Sometimes little gems of truth come at me from unexpected places. Take this quote for example: “All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” This quote hangs below a picture of Peter Bailey, the founder of Bailey Brothers Building & Loan.
“Who’s Peter Bailey?” you might ask. For those of us who cherish film and consequently hang on holiday traditions through movies, Peter Bailey is the father of George Bailey, the protagonist in It’s a Wonderful Life.
I surprise myself every year about this time. Somehow in all of the busy-ness of the holiday season, I find the opportunity to steal 130 minutes, time I’ve decided to climb off of the merry-go-round and indulge myself and my family in a bit of nostalgia and sentimentality. In fact, I never tire of re-living the life experiences of George Bailey and the goodness of his guardian angel, Clarence, who finally earns his wings after helping George through a profound life crisis. Even though I know how the movie ends, I always cry when all of George Bailey’s friends extend themselves to a man who has given selflessly and loved large.
Last Saturday night was our night to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and the quote – “All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away” –jumped off the TV screen, demanding my attention.
What does this mean? How will this notion manifest itself in my life when it’s time for me to take something with me?
My brother-in-law, Rod, held a family meeting via e-mail back in October. The father of four grown daughters and grandfather to a 2½ year old Mighty Mouse named Cal, I consider Rod the steady hand in my family, and when he speaks, I listen. His message was simple: Given the economic crisis that is gripping our planet, let’s let Christmas 2008 be about family, friends, good times, love. The subtext was, “No presents.” It didn’t take me long to speak for the Robertson-Short side of the family. “We’re in,” I cried, in my best e-mail voice. It was a dog pile from that point on and unanimous! There is no stress of holiday shopping, only cooking problems to solve, which, to me, is the best kind of holiday stress.
So far, this is the best holiday season I’ve experienced in years, perhaps the best ever in my life. I have a partner I adore, and family and friends I’d throw myself under a bus for. I dig the notion of not acquiring more stuff, as well, and I relish the idea of not contributing to the commercialism that has plagued this time of year for too long.
So, it’s back to the basics for the Robertson-Short, Warner-Welker-Ellingson-Holton, Robertson-Farha-Patrick households. Rather than root around in search of more stuff, I’m responding to e-mails about what’s on the Christmas Day menu and whether to bring champagne or full-bodied cabs as well as which game we’re going to play as a big ol’ family. (Pictionary is becoming a holiday favorite, by the way!)
As I was sharing the It’s a Wonderful Life quote with an out-of-town friend last night over dinner, I identified what the quote means for me: I’ll be taking love with me. Like George Bailey, I’m the richest person I know. I feel so much love for the people in my life, and I don’t ever want a day to come when those closest to me ever wonder whether I love them because loving them is the most sustainable thing I’ve ever done. Besides, when you’re the richest person you know, who needs more stuff to take with you anyway?