Opinion: Finding Meaning


A Deep Thought for Christmas

A daughter, in her high school wisdom, collected what she called “deep thoughts.” She valued, for example, the adage “you shouldn’t criticize others until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” because if you did criticize the person you had their shoes plus a mile head start. She wasn’t the first to say this, but it still makes me smile. This column is about deep thoughts at Christmas.

The last “Finding Meaning” column noted that we hit our physical peak by age 25 and our mental peak around 35, but that fulfilling our spiritual capacity takes longer, may even continue to our last breath. The role of spiritual preparation for what comes next seems a deep thought, one that on further pondering grew in profoundness. I apologize not to have done better in presenting this concept and promise to revisit the subject in future months. Here’s a personal Christmas story that leads to another deep thought.

The Beautiful Wife and I had been married a bit over 10 months when our first child was born, 12 days before Christmas. We were starving college students living in a basement (a deal at $30/month). In our poverty, we had agreed to not spend on Christmas, but my sister gifted us the tree from her apartment when she went home for the holidays. Like the Biblical Joseph and Mary, we awaited the birth of our firstborn, comforted by our little tree.

The hospital didn’t charge for the day if you arrived after 10:30 p.m., so on an icy winter night we sat in the parking lot tracking the minutes between contractions against the minutes to 10:30. Any mother will appreciate that the Beautiful Wife was an incredibly good sport about my cost reduction strategy. When we entered the hospital and the nurses learned the time between contractions was just five minutes, they got things moving, fast.

I was sent to the waiting room; husbands weren’t welcome during labor and delivery back then. There were two haggard-looking fathers in the waiting room, they had been there all day. We had hardly gotten acquainted before we heard the distant wail of a brand-new baby and they perked up. A nurse soon announced that the newborn was mine, delivered in 30 minutes by the young Beautiful Wife. I stepped into the hallway for that unforgettable moment—a dad meeting his firstborn, a son.

Like all parents with their firstborn, we had no experience but plenty of confidence we could handle this little guy. That ended when he cried and cried and we couldn’t figure out why. Fifty-four years have passed since then. This morning I sent a birthday note to that son, now a lawyer in the Washington, D.C., area, remembering some highlights of his life. The last was this, that he had given permanence to our new marriage. Now, there could be no turning back. But he had given us more—the experience of creating life, the greatest yet most universal human act. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach”. Email: [email protected]

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