Nan Russell: The journal

Twenty-some years in the making, it wasn’t a typical Christmas present. But it was, truly, a gift of a lifetime. Our son, the recipient, knew his father made periodic journal entries about the joys and challenges of raising him, about family events and world happenings, peppered with memories from his own life.

But when the journal arrived in the form of a finished, self-published book on Christmas day, it took our son by surprise. Thirteen days after Ian’s first child was born, on the morning of her first Christmas, his father gave him the journal about his life as written from a father’s perspective. The timing of that gift was orchestrated to commemorate Ian’s becoming a father himself; a loving baton passed from one generation to the next.

Adorned with a half-dozen of Dan’s favorite Ian pictures on the hard-bound shiny front cover, and milestone pictures on the back, Ian’s Journal witnesses the love of a father for his son. It also records challenges and joys of fatherhood, interpreting two journeys: boy-to-man and young father-to-grandfather, through the eyes of the latter.

I was also a recipient of my own gift copy of Dan’s journal that Christmas. To read my husband’s words, to savor a memory through his eyes, to feel the sadness or love or frustration or worry, to catch a glimpse of his thoughts or perspectives long ago forgotten in our conversations, or to discover even more dimensions to this man I have shared my life with for thirty-five years, his journal is a living gift for years to come.

There is a depth and spirit about the journal, embedded with the giver’s love, that makes me ponder the usual gifts we give and get at the holidays: those latest gadgets, hottest toys, most popular video games, newest technology, trendiest clothes, and coolest jewelry, topped with gift cards, are hollow by comparison.

I don’t know about you, but I have more “stuff” than I possibly need. And after the glow of the season passes, the excitement about that stuff often passes, too. The Christmas presents that offer lasting memories, like Ian’s Journal, come from the soul.

Handcrafted and heart-made, these actions of love, gifts of time, simple kindnesses, encouraging words, rekindled friendships, unexpected pleasures, and shared joys with family and friends are what transmits the season’s message and magic.

So, in the scheme of things, and against this year’s backdrop of difficult economic times, world tensions, natural and man-made disasters, and the nasty rancor of politics and us-them finger pointing, I think we could all use a little more of that kind of Christmas. We could all use more gifts of love.

Column by Nan Russell. More from Nan at nanrussell.com.

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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