Michael's Holiday Lesson
“Come on Small Fry, get up let's go, the fish are not sleeping they have been up waiting to meet you, we got to pull up those nets before the fish change their mind.”It was December 23rd and school was out for the Christmas break.Michael jumped up from the bed rubbing his eyes. “You mean ya really going to take me fishing with you today.”“Yes, now go and get ready, remember, you can't eat too much food in case you get sea sick.”“Mama, um going fishing with papa,” yelled Michael waking the other members of the house, his mother, grandma and aunt.After eating a light breakfast of cereal and milk, Michael dressed and went outside where his grandpa was waiting for him. “You ready Small Fry, can you handle fishing?”“Yes, papa, let's go, I'm ready,” Michael beamed with excitement.Today would be the first time that he would fish from a boat.It was an exceptionally warm morning; the journey to Coney Island was approximately one mile, most of the neighbours were still asleep as they headed out. The street lights were still on, traffic was scarce with the exception of a fleet taxi cabs on their way to the airport.Michael was excited as he counted the passing cars on the way.As they approached Coney Island the sun began to rise. He thought of the stories his papa had repeatedly told him about the boat and fishing and today he would experience it.After greeting the other fisherman they got into the punt to retrieving the bait of anchovies from the fishing nets, after which they rowed a little further to anchor the punt and transferred to the fishing boat, soon they were on their way to North Rock where they would drop anchor and fish. Somehow the boat seemed older and bigger than he remembered.“Here, put on this life jacket and this is your fishing line, whatever you do, don't drop it in the water and don't get it tangled around your legs, if you do you will have to retrieve it”.Michael was ecstatic; he had plenty of questions.“Papa what was Christmas like when mommy was little?” he asked“Well Small Fry, unlike today Christmas was certainly a time for rejoicing; it was the holiday of all holidays. It symbolised peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”“What does that mean papa?”“Well son, as your generation would say it means peace and love to all. When your mom was young, Christmas signified family fun, and the joy of receiving and giving thanks. Back then the church folks delivered food baskets to the needy.“Families went to church together, the store owners gave out beautiful calendars and the mineral truck delivered mineral to households.”“What is mineral papa?”“Mineral is what you children today call soda or pop. We prepared for the holiday similar as they do today, your mom wrote letters to Santa and participated in school and church plays. Children were excited and thankful for what they received on Christmas morning even if it was not what they asked for.“Christmas Eve people would go door to door singing Christmas carols, householders would furbish them with eggnog, or holiday cheer.“On Christmas morning we would awake early to the musical sounds of the Salvation Army or the Regiment Band outside, after which, your grandma would prepare the meal, later in the day family would come over to eat dinner and exchange gifts. The head of the house would usually bless the food; you know what they say ‘the family that prays together stays together'. Later in the evening we would all go house hopping to visit family and friends. Those days everyone was in a festive mood.“Michael, do you know the true meaning of Christmas? It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ,” he continued, “a time to bring about ones caring spirit by sharing and helping someone who has less than you. Always remember, it is better to give than to receive.“Today Christmas has become too commercialised. Folks are stressed, they overspend and they have lost the true meaning of Christmas. Parents don't always show by example the teaching of traditions to their children. We have also failed to help our fellow men by not taking the time out to volunteer and assist those in need, we would rather trash our used items then to donate them to help the less fortunate.“We would rather buy two pair of sneakers than to donate $1 to the Salvation Army representative standing on the street corner.“Always remember that the Christmas spirit should be extended all throughout the year.”“Something pulling my line, it's big! It's big! Help me grandpa.”“Relax and pull slowly,” grandpa replied.“No! Help me it's gonna pull me out of the boat.”“Here I got it, it's a yellow tail grunt but we have to throw it back in, it's too small to eat.”“But I want to keep it.”“What will you do with it Small Fry.”“I can give it to Uncle Lin on Christmas Day, he likes fish you know, he can put it in his fish tank.”“Uncle Lin has fresh water in his tank, this is a salt water fish, he will not survive,” answered papa.Michael was quiet for a few minutes.“You okay small fry,” asked grandpa.“You know, papa I wish my dad could do things with me, sometimes it gets hectic in the house with all those women doing girl things, and you are too old to play with me”.“I'm not old boy, I just look old.”“Well you have gray hair and always watch the news, and you don't know how to drive, that makes you old,” chimed Michael.“Son, always remember I can do anything with you that you want your father to do, all you have to do is ask.”“Davon's father is a lawyer he takes him for rides in his beamer, JJ's father spends weekends with his father, he always comes back with something new, Reggie's father is in jail but his uncle who works on the trash truck takes him and his brothers to church and then to the football game, Fazeem mother and her boyfriend takes him swimming and helps him with his homework. Tony's father takes him away.”“Grandson, your mom takes you away also.”“It's not the same, she likes to buy girl stuff and go boring places. I need my dad.“If my dad was around he could probably take me to shows and scrambling races. I remember one time my dad bought me a red fire truck and then he bought me his favourite lunch, a fishcake sandwich and a round de world soda. We walked to the park and ate it, and then we kicked ball. I was sad when he took me home, we had lots of fun. My life is so boring.”“Michael, always remember, although you have your father's name and he is not around you, you are still his child. Life isn't always fair, you will always have choices and you can choose to do nothing or choose to do something. Set goals for yourself. You can always achieve your goal if you prepare study and work hard. You have family, neighbours and godparents who are there for you. Call on them since you think I am too old. If they are busy there are always other options.”“Have you ever told your mom how you felt?”“No, she is tired when she comes home from her second job and sometimes at night I hear her crying for no reason.”“Well son, maybe you can talk to your mom about the Big Brothers/ Sisters programme.”“What is that papa?”“It's a programme that matches you with a male who is older than you, he is called a big brother and he spends time and gets to know you.”“Wow papa we got to shore fast, I can't wait to talk to my mom and I have an idea for her Christmas gift.”That evening before talking to his mom, Michael went to his room and turned on his computer. Tonight he would prepare a collage of pictures of himself; tomorrow he would frame it and give to his mother on Christmas Day.Later that night before going to bed he prayed for “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men”.As he lay alone in his bed, he recalled the activities of the day. “Today was a good day and my papa taught me a lot,” he said aloud.As he dozed off, he thought he heard a voice saying “Son hold on to my memories, I will always be with you.”It was then that he felt his father's spirit in the room.He knew that his father's was looking down at him from above.Christmas was going to be great.