Christmas is upon us. I’ve had a lifetime of dealing with good ones and bad ones.
With the revolving door of father’s in my life growing up, you never really knew what Christmas would bring and, I’m not just talking about presents.
Up until the age of five, it was my grandparents who filled in the Santa role. My mother was on her third husband by then and since her second one didn’t want me living with them I lived with my grandparents. My father was long gone and I have no memory of Christmas with him.
I’m sure there was great food since my grandmother was in charge of that. She couldn’t stand having anyone ‘underfed’ and, thankfully, she was an excellent cook. I know I get my love of cooking from her.
When the third dad came along things changed and for the better. We would go to his mother’s house on Christmas Eve for a big family gathering. They were Polish and the food was a little different than my grandmother’s Southern cuisine, but I liked it. Plus, there were always plates and more plates full of cookies and fudge. It was a feast!
We would get back to our house very late and *Surprise!*, my grandparents would be there and inform me I had just missed Santa! Again!
All the gifts would be under the tree and one year there was a small table and chairs, just the right size for a little girl to sit at, with a beautiful tea set in the middle. Santa had even left cookies for me! I loved that Christmas so much.
When I was twelve my mother had divorced number three and I had a two-year-old brother. We were living in a shit box trailer in an ugly part of town with a complete dearth of cheer.
Mom came home, drunk, around midnight with a Charlie Brown tree, a bag of mixed nuts, and some Christmas cookies. I was grateful my brother would never remember that year.
Then there were the years with her fourth husband, the psycho, where we would all put on our fake happy faces and pretend we were family.
Good times? Not so much.
So, I promised myself, when I had a family of my own I would make Christmas something special. Even before our first child was born we began our traditions.
I remember Dave carrying a fresh cut tree down the main road in Hartsdale, NY to our little garden apartment. It looked so much fuller at the lot but, no matter, it filled a big empty hole in our living room and we loved it.
As our family grew Christmas became, even more, fun. The kids were in 1st and 3rd grade when we moved to Stow, Massachusetts. We had a lovely little house with a cathedral ceiling that gave us room for a beautiful ten-foot tree every Christmas for eight years. We were living the dream!
Once the kids flew the nest every year was a little different. To fill the gap, we would plan big Christmas parties every year. We love to entertain and it’s the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ for that!
Now that the kids have their own families there are no set rituals for the holidays anymore. The old saying, ‘A daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life, a son is a son til he takes a wife’ is true.
So, we’ve accepted our back seat and treasure any and every way we can be together for the holidays. At this point, it’s most important that the grandkids start savoring their own treasured family holiday traditions and building memories to carry forward.
My final thought here is…living in this beautiful little Victorian hamlet, Cape May, has brought the look, feel and, spirit of Christmas back for me. Life is Good!
What are your favorite holiday traditions or memories?