Andy Young

Andy Young

The “Holiday Season” has officially arrived, but Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa are hardly the only days on the calendar worth celebrating.

For example, I know for a fact something good will happen every year on my paternal grandfather’s birth date. And sure enough, this past Jan. 12 I heard from a friend who told me about her nine grandkids, eight great-grandkids, her daughter in Hawaii, her current home outside Phoenix, and her May through July job in her old hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska. I haven’t actually seen her in over 30 years, but that thoughtful electronic update made it seem as though she was right there in the room with me.

Later last winter my oldest child and I made a round trip drive of almost 500 miles on a snowy day to attend a friend’s funeral. Two men I worked for many years ago were exceptionally kind to my boy when they met him for the first time there, confirming that while my collegiate academic achievements were modest (or, more accurately, nonexistent), I did a pretty fair job of picking role models. Or, more likely, they did a superb job of spotting me.

While at an event in March I spotted someone wearing a, “Hi, my name is ________,” badge which bore the last name of a former colleague, one of whom I was quite fond. Its wearer turned out to be her sibling. After an uplifting chat my new friend gave me one of the greatest hugs I’d gotten in some time. Coincidentally (or perhaps providentially) it came when I really needed a heartfelt embrace.

On an early-June Saturday the White Sox scored seven runs in the bottom of the last inning, knocking my younger son’s baseball team out of the “minors” division of the Little League playoffs. Immediately afterward most of the defeated players cried, moaned about the umpires, muttered darkly about the other team, or simultaneously engaged in all three unattractive behaviors. My son was an exception. It’s gratifying seeing him more mature at nine than I was when I was twice his age. Or three times it.

In mid-July, my by-now-14- year-old and I were doing yard work for friends who have been extraordinarily kind to us over the years. When our host asked my oldest son if he could pay him a little something, my boy, who very much likes having money, politely told him it wouldn’t be necessary. I cannot remember being any more proud of my first-born than I was at that moment. This past August I attended a festive and memorable family reunion in Connecticut with more than 60 other people, many of whom traveled even further than I did to be there. In September I got together with some other friends who live outside of Maine, and in October I dined with some very special ones here in what, after 20 years, I now consider my true home state. I enjoyed seeing one of my children sprint incredibly rapidly at her track meets, and savored watching the other two play soccer this past fall with skill and enthusiasm. I chauffeured my remarkable mother-in-law to the grocery store, re-united my daughter with her lost cat, and was the recipient of numerous random kindnesses from family, neighbors, co-workers, and utter strangers. I even got a call from a special friend in California, although it may have been precipitated by my inadvertently butt-dialing her on a poorly positioned cell phone.

Sometimes something as simple as a chance encounter can make any day special. One night late last summer I complimented a guy in a grocery store parking lot who was sporting a blue baseball cap with a white “B” on the front of it. “Hey, nice Dodger hat!” I said as we passed. “Thanks!” he replied. Then, with a slightly perplexed expression on his face he added quizzically, “But you don’t look old enough to remember Ebbets Field.”

I got the same sort of delighted, “How’d you know that?” reaction a month or so later from a gentleman of my vintage who was wearing a purple replica football jersey I recognized as that of Alan Page, the only 1970’s NFL defensive tackle who later became an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

And then there was finding that handwritten note on my desk at school, left surreptitiously by a young person last month. It said, among other things, “You inspire me,” “You are someone I shall never forget,” and “My kids will know about you.” It’s funny; were I as thoughtful as she, I could have written the same thing to her, and to a lot of other people too.

It is indeed holiday season – but done right, it lasts 365 days.

Andy Young teaches in Kennebunk and lives in Cumberland.

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