I grew up in a small town in Georgia where you counted the number of McDonald's restaurants in order to gauge the size of a community. And for the record, my hometown of Albany had four.
Also, I noticed in larger communities that distance was measured by time and not miles. In fact, I used to ask people how many miles away some destination was until I learned that people didn't care so much about the distance, but rather the time it took to arrive somewhere.
I loved growing up in my small town, but at this point I only return to maintain our family tradition of visiting my small hometown every year.
My kids love visiting their grandparents because they get spoiled with treats, late nights and lots of video games. This holiday season made me reflect upon my own childhood memories of fun, tradition and stability. I could have grown up anywhere and been fine because my parents established a stable, loving environment of safety and expectations.
While creating that environment may be easier when you have resources at your disposal, traditions can be established with little money or effort when you put loving thought into your endeavors.
On Christmas Eve, after church, my wife and the family stay up all night drinking champagne and wrapping presents. On Christmas morning we share mimosas, breakfast casserole and cake as we open gifts. Despite their various idiosyncrasies, time spent with family always outranks the volume of gifts. They're priceless.
As I grow older, it seems that the whole town that I knew is aging and passing away. In fact, for many people the holidays can be stressful, depressing and lonely. However, I hope to emulate my parents who are 82 and 90 years young, by maintaining the tradition of keeping as active as possible while surrounding themselves with friends and family of varying ages, including kids.
The positive impact on my children underscores the value of these traditions. Even if you don't share the holidays with blood relatives, find a way to define and create seminal moments, even among friends. It will help shape their memories and create a foundation for their own families.
I have learned from my children that you can craft fun anywhere, even in a four-McDonald's town.
Keith Berry is a married father of two who lives in the Westchase area.