Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Can't come up with a headline

Posted: Sunday, December 25, 2011 12:00 am Welcome back to our continued conversation. I've said it before and have to say it again, I really do regret when a shortage of time prevents me from writing this column. I realized why the other day. It's not that I think I have anything particularly earth-shattering to share, but rather the connection it creates. When a reader sends an email expressing how some sentence touched them, reminded them of something or encouraged them to try again -- in the garden or in life -- I'm reminded of the interconnectedness of us. Last year I wrote an article about my lack of motivation to get the Christmas d├ęcor out of storage and decorate the house. Some messages are worth revisiting. It went like this: Posted: Sunday, December 19, 2010 12:00 am When I met Angie and her girls, I knew that I would play some kind of role in their lives. At minimum, I would be their neighbor...that 'fun guy up the street with those three golden retrievers'. The girls were very young and they referred to me as "Nabes", their version of the word neighbor which I still find endearing to this day. Little did I know how the story would continue to unfold. The first Christmas that I knew them, I gave them each a Christopher Radko Christmas ornament. Without intention, it became an annual tradition. I had never collected them before that time. The detailed and colorful mercury glass ornaments weren't my style and prior to this occasion, I really had no use for them. The ornaments have so many themes -- everything from turtles, santas, penguins, nutcrackers to spaceships. The bright colors and the materials weave a common thread through the ornaments so that when put together on a tree, they really look great together. I happened across a snowman ornament that was covered in holly. Knowing that Angie's oldest daughter's middle name is Holley (also Angie's maiden name) I knew that one had to be for her. Angie's younger daughter was amazed with the solar system at the time and thanks to Christopher Radko, I discovered an ornament that was the sun with little planets springing on wire all around it. After we were married and Landon was born I began buying Angie ornaments with three of "something" because she's the mother of three. The girls opened the ornaments that year very carefully and looked at them in awe for a few seconds and then set them aside and tore into the much anticipated toys that were on their 'Santa list'. The same scenario has played out for the last nearly ten years, starting with me looking for the perfect ornament. I search for one that reminds me of some significant event that happened that year, which can be memorialized in an ornament. After giving it to them, I carefully wire it on the tree, which I then place on top of a piano so that kids, dogs and cats can't break them! This year something different happened. Usually, I put the tree up really early since my job involves doing so much of this sort of thing for businesses and individuals that I'm always worried that ours won't get done. October and November were literally a blur and our tree didn't get done. So last week I put the tree up. The girls were there and Landon was bringing the ornaments to me because he wanted to "help". As he ran back and forth from the table to the tree while we all held our breath and in his own way "carefully" set them on the piano, something occurred to me. I told the girls again what each ornament meant. "Remember when we had to run to the hardware store and get that really long fruit picker thing to get every pear off of the tree? Thus, the pear tree ornament. "Remember when there was a real mouse in your doll house and your mom was gone and we set traps all around it and when the mouse started moving we all jumped on your bed and started screaming?" That incident introduced the mouse-in-the-teacup ornament. "Remember when all you wanted for Christmas was a horse? -- the special edition horse ornament! And so on... The night I dreaded, putting up yet another tree turned out to be one of the "big moments" in my life and it was completely unplanned. I said "someday you'll each have a box of these ornaments for your own houses and when you use them again you'll remember these good times." I saw in their faces that they really knew what I was talking about for about 30 seconds until Landon interrupted our moment and said "Hey Dad, can we have some popcorn!" As I look at this tree that once had two Christopher Radko ornaments which now has 26, I can't help but think how correct all the people were who told me to enjoy it now; "it goes so fast". The quantity of ornaments on the tree are proof of how far we've come. Update: December 22, 2011 This year's scene played out in similar fashion with a couple of exceptions. The tree on the top of the piano was a smaller tree and it was absolutely packed with the 26 ornaments. I found that while it was wonderful to see how far we'd come, it was also beginning to feel like something was coming to an end. The kids are little for what seems like a minute and that five foot tree on the piano was a glaring reminder that it wouldn't be long before our tradition would be complete. At least, that's the way I initially observed the situation. Now is the time of year that we all reflect on what matters most to us, what our greatest blessing are and perhaps what needs to change within ourselves to experience life more fully. I've been thinking about the "footprint" our lives leave for our family, friends and the world. Questions like "what matters most"? and "what actions make the longest lasting impressions"? For me, I've realized that it's making sure that people in my life know -- for sure -- how much I care for them and what a difference they've made in my life. The action is like dropping rose petals or rocks in the forest; this effort will ensure that even in times of doubt, there will be a trail for them to follow to remind them and leave no doubt about how important they are to me. I've got to get busy! It's a daunting task but, I'm going to give it shot. Last Christmas, Karolyn gave me one of the first ornaments that she received from Christopher Radko. She couldn't write any longer so Chuck penned the card message for her. She explained why the ornament was important to her and that she wanted me to have it. The idea for the gift came to her after she read my reflections in this column last year about the shiny ornaments and the sentiment that was attached to them for my family. A truth became clear to me by her act and the kindness I've experienced from others over the years. "Remarkable people leave footprints for those they love.... Not so they are unforgotten but to ensure that a reminder of their love is always there." Back to the little tree on the piano and my "Sunrise, Sunset" lament from last year about how quickly time flies and my reflection: "How can this little tree have so many ornaments, it feels like we just started"? Problem solved: I decided that in this case unlike the glass of water, it was better to have a tree that was half full because it meant there were many more chances to make footprints. Fortunately we happened to have one at the store. Now a 9' tree stands in the same place with lots and lots of room for more footprints. It is my hope that your Christmas day is filled with hope for the future and that the season was good to you. Merry Christmas. Jim Gainan is President of of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings. Email questions and comments to