When I was a little girl, my parents made sure that we celebrated every holiday noted on the First National Bank calendar that hung on the wall next to the telephone.

Maybe “celebrated” is a bit of stretch.  Acknowledged.  Observed.

Special days included a treat in my lunchbox, a themed dinner (heart-shaped pancakes for Valentine’s Day, cherry pie for George Washington’s birthday) and always, always, ALWAYS a card at my place at the breakfast table.

When I became the parent, I carried on the tradition and marked special occasions with notes, balloons or gifts.  For my children.  Not so much for my parents.


I regret that now.

Especially now that I recognize that as we age, we find joy in small things.  In inexpensive things.  In no “things” at all, but simply in shared time.

If you have kids at home, a kid in college, or a kid with a kid, it comes naturally to give gifts, send cards, clip newspaper articles and make phone calls.  As parents, we pay joy forward, but we sometimes forget to pay it back.  We delight in our child’s  smile, forgetting that the smile of our parent is just as beautiful — and perhaps more rewarding.


Seasonal treats:  Springy flowers from your garden, sun-ripened tomatoes, cozy socks in the fall, lotion or lip balm in the winter mark the passing of time in a beautiful way.

Activities:  Puzzle books, lottery tickets, a notebook and pen, a beautiful magazine or a deck of cards help fill time — and stimulate the brain.

Knick-Knacks:  Space is often limited and clutter can be an issue.  Still, it’s fun to have a little something personal.  A succulent garden, a stuffed animal or a fleece blanket bring a touch of individuality.

All that said, the best gift of all is the gift of your time.  It’s easy to look at a calendar and decide it’s impossible to schedule another thing.  But, it’s also easy to set aside one hour a week to spend with someone who is lonely.  Skip lunch with a friend to visit a loved one.  Or leave the office a little early to share some time with someone who doesn’t have many visitors.


You may be surprised how rewarding it is to visit an assisted living community and sit down with — or, even better, take a leisurely walk with — a resident.  Ask about her first job or his first car and watch their eyes light up.  As the stories pour out, the joy floods in.   To both of you.

Sharing fond memories brings joy.  Joy stimulates the brain to release endorphins that make us happier and healthier.  Medical research proves that joyful people have stronger immune systems, experience less stress, manage pain better and live longer.

I don’t know about you but, to me, that sounds better than a Hallmark card or a slice of cherry pie.

From the Daughter of Jan