Bucks County Herald

Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox

Spending our time after time

This past week has been a holiday doozy … for me, at least.

I spent three days this week in full-day commitments to three sets of very long time friends (I’d say “old friends” but, at our age, that could be an insult).

Chattereaders all know about my childhood friends; we call ourselves the Four Secrets. It’s a term we adopted when we formalized our friendship in elementary school with monthly chat sessions at each other’s houses – cookies a must.

Tuesday, the Secrets spent several hours together, which clearly demonstrated the personality synch-up that bonded us 62 years ago. Hesitant to leave, even after a four-hour, quadruple tip breakfast, we dragged our conversation from the table to the vestibule to the parking lot. We never discuss politics, talk little about our children, never finish any of dozens of topics, and laugh like teenagers.

During our hesitant departure, though we see each other every two to four months, I said that being with them is like coming in from a cold, wet snowfall to cozy pajamas, warm slippers, and a mug of cocoa. All in agreement, we hugged, wished each other Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah, and waved until we were all out of each other’s sight.

Wednesday, my husband and I spent several hours with a gal I met in junior high school and also went through high school with. I was several weeks dating my husband before I found out she was his cousin (I sure am glad I was nice to her in school). She’s a doll and her husband is, too. It’s rare and wonderful when couples gather and the husbands and wives all enjoy each other’s company. Seven hours later, we hesitatingly walked them to their car and, with promises of a spring visit, wished them a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, we were with a couple mentioned in Chatterbox before. We met them 45 years ago on our, and their, honeymoon. We visited their new home bearing the traditional gift of wine, bread and salt, with sweets and roses to boot. We and they have much in common, and watching these two work together, like silk on glass, serving an appetizer smorgasbord and prepping an early dinner was like being at the ballet, with comedians. We laughed. We cried. It was a wonderful holiday visit. Though we were invited for an overnighter, we gradually departed nine hours later, after dessert and chill-out chats.

Not once, during any of these protracted visits did anyone waste a moment on the cell phone, or bemoan any holiday chores being neglected.

During this joyful, colorful, crazy-busy time of year, many among us might stress over the lost moments of the holi-daze, but it’s wise to remember to give time to the one entity which isn’t guaranteed for even another minute … people. It may take major effort for us to break habit and give away hours we really need to get the holiday duties done but, let’s not forget that we can always forego some tinsel and holly for more intangible things. Time spent with new acquaintances, dearest friends and family is always time best invested.

If our holiday arrives before we’re completely ready, so what? The crumbs on our floor represent time spent making cookies with our kids or grandies. If we’re not up to snuff on the formalities, we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff (a lesson some of us learn too late as I now point my finger at myself). A few days in the company of people who warm our hearts and feed our souls can make the holidays far more meaningful than glitter, lights and a steaming turkey.

Two weeks ago, we talked about a priceless, musical evening spent at, “Together in Sprit,” an evening in gratitude, a musical program with performers and an audience of mixed religions that demonstrated great human harmony. All peoples embracing each other, every day, is a blessing and a gift. It’s a privilege denied to many and must be regarded as a wonder to be sure.

It’s certainly sad that the weight of violence is never far from us. We think about it in synagogues, churches, concert halls and schools. We move with it on trains, planes, boats and buses. We watch for it on the street and any place open to the public or where people congregate. It’s a harsh reality of life, especially in America. We remain aware but we can’t be afraid.

So let’s spend our holiday time keeping it real and investing in what’s valuable. Cheers.

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