Every couple of weeks, the group will be issued a
"challenge entry". The site will post a excerpt from the challenge entries, as
well as the link to the complete entry found on the journaller's own journal site.
'TIS THE SEASON...
December 8, 2000
I suppose well need a tree. Every year about this time I start to realize how close it is to Christmas and how little prepared I am. Ever since David died, its been a struggle to get all the trappings put together. By the time the day arrives, things are fine. The family is gathered around and we all laugh a lot, carry on old traditions, and try not to think about the fact that our numbers are smaller than they have been.
Theres something about holidays and tradition. Christmas was always the same in our house when I was growing up. The tree always went in the same corner. We would bring out the same ornaments--I got to put up the one with the face on it (which one of our kids broke long ago).
We had no fireplace, so my sister and I hung socks (not fancy stockings) with thumbtacks from the edge of the window seat in the bay window (in the morning they would be filled with oranges and walnuts--none of this "stocking stuffer" suff for our Santa!). Santa couldnt come down the chimney, but we had a "light well" with a window that opened onto the dining room, so we left cookies and milk on the window sill and left the window open a bit so Santa could get in.
We opened gifts on Christmas morning and then the family--my paternal grandparents, my godfater (who was also my great uncle)--came for dinner. We sat around the dining room table in the same spots each year. At some point, someone (usually me) would take a group picture. Somewhere is a collection of those pictures...everybody looking a little older as the years passed by.
We would have cocktail hour, when my godfather would tell the same jokes each year, my grandmother would roll her eyes, and my grandfather would usually sit silently, since he didnt speak much. (About the only thing I ever really remember him saying to me was "Well--tell me all about yourself," each time he saw me.) Gradually, through the evening, my mother, father, sister and I would all end up sitting out in the kitchen because we couldnt stand the tension in the living room any more. Some years we had visitors who joined the table. Those were fun years because it was always nice to have a change in routine.
My mother cooked a wonderful turkey dinner, with a stuffing Ive never been able to duplicate. My godfather would go to the bathroom right as dinner was called, and my grandmother always got angry at that. My sister and I would get small glasses of wine as a special treat because it was a holiday. Always pumpkin pie for dessert.
After dinner we would open more gifts, and then at the end of the evening, everyone would go home and wed clean up.
Wash, rinse, repeat for 20 years or more.
When we started our own family, I began hosting the holiday dinners. We started establishing our own traditions. To paraphrase Ms. Melanie, "The happiest holidays are when babies come." I used to buy new pajamas for the kids to wear on Christmas Eve and we began taking a "train picture," where they would all sit in a line in their pajamas under the Christmas tree. Its fun to look back on all those pictures and watch them all grow up.
We used to make a big deal out of trimming the tree. We served egg nog and put on Christmas music (always starting with Bing Crosby) and brought out the familiar old ornaments. As the years passed, we ended up with more home-made ornaments than store-bought (and now dont use store bought at all). My very favorite ornament is one we have lost now. The kids drew photos and ran string through them and hung the drawings on the tree. This particular year, they were all involved with the springboard diving team and so Neds ornament that year was a picture of Jesus doing a front dive. Im really sorry we lost that one!
Instead of regular socks, I knitted Christmas stockings for the kids. Huge Christmas stockings. Huge, difficult to fill up Christmas stockings. (The older they got, the more I regretted not having followed my parents example and had the kids use their own socks to hang up!
When the kids were very small, we always put unwrapped gifts under the tree after they went to bed on Christmas eve so they could find them in the morning. When they got older and learned about Santa, I would put wrapped packages under the tree--but to keep them from figuring out which was theirs, instead of putting names on the packages, I put numbers. Nobody knew who had which number but me so even if they found the packages, they had no way of knowing if they were shaking their own or their brothers.
We would open packages Christmas morning and then have a special Christmas breakfast (a tradition we continued until last year, after Paul died, actually). The family all came over for dinner, much as they all had as my parents home when I was a child.
We took it to new heights, though in the years during and after the time we hosted foreign students. It was not uncommon for us to have 24 people crammed around tables in our 12x24' family room.
After dinner the kids would put on a show. They would play musical instruments and create wonderful skits (the year Jeri, as Mary, gave birth to Jesus was hysterical...Im sure even God laughed).
Our traditions were shaken up in 1996, when David died. The joy went out of Christmas. I couldnt bring myself to want to put up a tree, but the other kids got a lot of the members of their band to come over and make a party out of it. Ill never forget how great those kids were that day. They made it fun, and only a few tears. We got it done.
It still hasnt been something Ive looked forward to. The foreign students kind of went away when David died and I havent pushed to get them back. So its now just us and family again. The kids are too old (and there are too few of them for the annual Christmas show). Weve stopped the Christmas morning breakfast. Instead of all going to midnight mass, we now all go to the cemetery at midnight on Christmas eve, bring a small tree for the grave that Paul and Dave share, drink a toast, and go back home again.
On Christmas day we will all be together. Theres a combination of forced frivolity and a sense of the family going on, even when another member is gone. One thing this family has always had the ability to do is to laugh, even when things arent quite right. There is something to be said for the comfort of tradition. Its nice to know that no matter what happens, the family will survive. And love will continue somehow to make the season merry.