Monthly Archives: December 2019

Christmas–My New Normal

Some traditions hold true.  Some change.  Christmas is no different.  I remember the first Christmas we had after my mom died.  For years, we went to our parents’ home for Christmas, even after she was too ill to prepare the meal.  We three girls brought the Tommi, Maggie, Paige, Danicafood, because my mom wanted us together.  The only time her holiday was changed was the day my sister went into labor in the wee hours of Christmas morning, and delivered the only girl grandchild to my parents.  They already had eight (8) grandsons, and no granddaughters.  That was a nice gift for them.  For my kids, they felt robbed of the day.  A few years later they said the day was not the same.  We all got together, short of my sister and her husband, and then the adult women all ran off to the hospital to see this Christmas baby girl.  We then returned to open all the presents under the tree with the family.  Every year, we went to my mom and dad’s, ate dinner, and had a huge gift exchange with all our family.

Our mom died in August, and all of a sudden we had to come up with a new tradition.  I don’t remember what we did that first December.  Maybe we showed up at our dad’s or one of my sister’s home.  The following year, we sisters decided to have a “progressive” IM001639Christmas celebration.  We loved it, the men hated it, and the smaller kids were okay with it.  We started at my home.  My home was very small back then, so I started with the appetizers, so I wouldn’t have to have folks around the table.  Everyone showed up and were fed whatever the appetizer I selected to make.  We also had to do some sort of small entertainment.  I don’t really remember what I did—maybe lead everyone in a Christmas carol.  After those two things were completed, I gave out my gifts to the family members.  We then went on to the next home.  As we progressed from my home, we went to homes to have soup, salad, main course, and desert.  No one had to drag presents with them because the adults who bought presents for all the kids, delivered them at their own home.  It was a fun day, and it took all day to eat our meal as none of IMG_1307.JPGus lived next door to each other.  After that year, my dad moved to Arizona, and one sister and her husband moved out of town, and also a couple of their kids scattered.  Two of my children made their way to the west coast.  The whole Christmas tradition changed again.  I had since moved to a larger home, and I worked out a deal with my remaining local sister that if she did Thanksgiving, I would do Christmas.  We did this every year through 2011.  Then in early 2012, my local sister was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away later that year.  We once again started a new normal.

I was like my mom.  I wanted Christmas at my home as long as I was healthy enough to celebrate with my children and grandchildren.  I hosted Christmas, even after I married Dennis, and lived 2 hours from my Missouri kids.  That worked every year until Dennis and I decided we wanted to move to Arizona.  Last year we were just snowbirds.  We wanted to leave the day after Christmas, so instead of hosting our children, we went to St. Louis and had Christmas at one of their homes.  We were still all together.

sledThis year the dynamic changed.  It changed for everyone.  One son in San Francisco got married, which changes the dynamic of his holiday, although he didn’t always make his way to the midwest as he had found his new normal in California.  He and his wife shared photos of their celebrations with friends who they love as family.   My youngest son, in Los Angeles, married and has a small child, and doesn’t have much opportunity to travel. My #3 son, his wife, and daughter flew to Arizona to have Christmas with us.  It was not a Christmas with lots of wrapped presents, since most of the grandchildren have grown up.  It is hard to shop for older teenagers when we don’t live near them, and they love to receive cash to do their own shopping.  I kind of miss having all the packages to wrap, always giving a toy, some clothes, and every grandchild would get a pair of warm winter pajamas and a book.  I was the book and pajama grandma!

 

So, the tree was bare underneath except for a few envelopes.  We did have Christmas cookies.  The consensus of the celebrants wanted grilled steaks, and since Arizona is supposed to be warm, their wish was granted — except, St. Louis, Missouri, was actually warmer this year on Christmas Day than Arizona!  We were fortunate that was the one day it did not rain, and steaks were grilled to perfection.

2019As my other children and grandchildren called me that day to wish me a Merry Christmas, we talked about how this holiday was different for all of us.  My grandson mentioned that this was the first one that not all the midwest family will be together—he will not be with his cousin who he celebrated with for 17 years.  My son, his dad, said that since they sold their home and moved to a new place in November, it was all new to them also, just making the new place their Christmas home.

I was sad to see my kids leave for Missouri.  They had an early flight this morning.  Life goes on though, and they have to get home and back to work and school.  We now have our tree and Christmas decor around the house that will need to come down and be packed away.  

I still think it was the right thing to move here.  Our family is growing and the kids and grandkids have their own busy lives.  I am no longer babysitting grandkids and having them come for sleepovers.  They have school activities, boyfriends, girlfriends, other friends, and even work obligations.  We also have a place that they love to visit.  One granddaughter was here for the week of Christmas.  A grandson is coming with his friends in January during their winter break from college.  I am working on a date for my oldest granddaughter to come visit.  Our home in Arizona is open to friends, but is especially open to our family.  Our Christmases will be different, but that is what happens in all families eventually.  We will learn our new normal.

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Santa Baby

sistersI was a big fan of Santa.  I believed that jolly old guy would deliver every year.  I wrote him letters.  The first one was apparently dictated to my mom.  She sent it off to the North Pole, or so I thought she did.  After my mom passed, I found many things she had saved over the years, of which two were letters I had written to Santa Claus.

I should have known that first Christmas as the age of 6, that Santa was sure to disappoint.  The first item on my list was a Saucy Walker Doll.  My sisters both had this type of doll, and I was dollenvious of their beautiful dolls, so I requested one.  I think I did receive one but it was a smaller version.  Of course, I was a smaller version of my sisters back in those days.

The second item on the list was dishes.  I am sure I received those, because I had a lot of play dishes, pots and pans, toy rolling pin, just everything a little girls in the mid 50’s would think her play kitchen should have.

I requested a bank, and got one that you couldn’t take the money out of until it reached $10.  Do you know how long it takes to save up $10 in those days.  It felt like forever.  We bankfigured out how to fool the totaling of the register to bring it to $10 way before that large sum of money was saved.  There were important things I needed to buy, and I couldn’t wait for the $10 to accumulate.

The next item was a huge disappointment.  Why on earth did Santa not bring me the requested “baby brother?”  He didn’t even bring me a baby sister.  What kind of Santa is that?  I was going to name my brother Charles.  I don’t know why—there wasn’t a single Charles on either side of our families.  I think it was a sturdy name—maybe I was aware at age 6, that Queen Elizabeth had a little boy the same age as me by the name Charles.  What made me think I could name my brother anyway?  Charles, or whatever his name could be, never arrived under our tree or anywhere in our house.  I was the end of child making in this family.1954 Santa Letter

The doll buggy and doll bed sound like something I got.  As you also see, I was into properly dressing my dolls also by requesting doll clothes, skates, and shoes.  I loved all my dolls, and I loved dressing them up.  I spent a lot of my time “playing house” and loved pretending to be a mother.  By the way, I never got a ballerina doll either.

I made a good try at age 6 to writing my first name in cursive, a lost art today.  My last name apparently was a bit more difficult to do in cursive.  It is good to know that I promised to be a good girl and mind “my mother and daddy.”  I was a very compliant child, and took this part of my job seriously.

So then a year later, I learned to write, and apparently I found a toy catalog, probably a Sears Roebuck, or maybe a J.C. Penney.  My writing is quite primitive, but I sure could copy names of toys that I saw, as I am sure that those descriptions would not be how I would have stated the item. 1956 Chrismas Letter A1956 Christmas Letter B

I am amazed at how demanding I was with the jolly old fellow.  I just went straight to the point.  I didn’t promise to be a good girl, I didn’t start with a nice introduction—I just told the man what I wanted for Christmas.  I noticed, though, that I didn’t bother to sign the letter.  How did Santa know who to deliver the goods to?  As I think about it, I am not sure I got all those or any of those things.  That could be why—Santa didn’t know who wrote this note, or maybe he wasn’t happy that I had not promised to be a good girl.

FastFoto_0300I believed in Santa for a long time—probably much longer than kids today.  One year I went shopping with my mom.  I was always with her.  She bought some stuff and I never thought anything about it, until on Christmas morning.  When my sister opened her much coveted paint by number oil painting set, a light bulb turned on in my brain.  I remembered my mom buying that when I was with her!  The magic was gone!

Do you remember Christmas Club accounts at the bank?  You put a certain amount of money into the account every week, and the first of December, the bank closed out the account and gave you the money.  One year my mom, got me an account.  I don’t remember how much it was. It was pretty minimal, but at the end of the year, I had money to buy my family Christmas gifts, and I learned how fun it was to find the perfect gift for each person.  I bought my mom a new metal canister set and my dad a light table for sorting his slides.  I had some money left over and bought myself a pair of shoes, and wrapped the box and put it under the tree for myself—one can never get too many presents!

IMG2780I loved Christmas.  My dad was the resident Scrooge, so my mom took us girls out to find our Christmas tree.  We could never purchase the tree before my birthday (December 16), so usually on the 17th we went tree shopping.  Judy, the middle sister, would string the lights on the tree, and then we would pull out the  glass bulbs and hang them.  The final touch was always the tinsel on the tree.  We thought the tree was beautiful.  We would turn on the lights, put our Johnny Mathis Christmas album on the Magnavox stereo, and marvel at the tree and the beautiful holiday music.  Those were good days—simple and fun.  We had family dinners with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We went to church, and performed in the Sunday school Christmas programs.  I even sang (yeah, can you believe that?) “We Three Kings” in a trio with two other little girls.  Each of us got to sing one of the verses solo.  My apologies goes out to those who may remember this performance!

Today, there are new traditions, and I hope my kids and grandkids have heartwarming memories of their Christmas celebrations as much as I do.

What were the traditions in your family?  Do you have fond memories of these days, or were you from a household that Christmas was a chaotic time with stress and family disagreements?  I am so grateful that our Christmas celebrations were wrapped with family love, and celebration of Christ’s birth.isaiah

Not So Ready for Christmas!

nativityThe holidays are upon us, and I am not feeling it yet.  I try to think why that is.  I have had the tree up and decorated since the week of Thanksgiving.  My nativity collections have found places to be displayed around the home.  I have even started to receive Christmas cards.  I still have to purchase and send mine.

Now that we are in Arizona with only 9’ ceilings, our 12’ Christmas tree was donated back in Missouri.  The biggest I could find was a 7.5’ tree.  The next size was 9’ which would have hit the ceiling without my angel topper.  

I also had to make a decision about what ornaments to add to the tree since I had a very filled 12’ tree in the past.  My American flags are a given.  I have two small flags stuck into the tree.  The first one I received when I donated some flagmoney to help repair the Greek Orthodox Church near the site of the Twin Towers.  It was damaged on 9/11, and as I gave a small cash donation at a Greek Festival in Missouri, they gave a US flag.  I don’t remember where I got the 2nd one.  My decision for ornaments were the “grandkid” ornaments.  These are the ornaments I have bought with each grandchild in mind, and they hang on my tree until they are young adults.  Then I pack them up and give them their ornaments for their tree.  If you want more information on how I do that, click here.  Along with those, I added ones that are about Dennis and me, or our grown children, and then of course, the many character ones I have collected from Hallmark over the

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The Singing Chickens

years.  My “Singing Chickens” have died, and I cannot find a way to possibly repair the ornament.  My Statue of Liberty ornament that plays the “National Anthem” is still alive and well.

So, the tree is decorated.  The house is festive.  I’m still not feeling it.  Last night I purchased the ingredients for Christmas cookies, and I need to start baking in the next day or two.  

I used to feel festive when the grandkids were little.  I would shop for gifts that I knew they would love.  Now, it’s about giving them money so they can purchase something

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Christmas 2006

they wanting, or for them to save.  It’s not as much fun as watching them open packages with toys, games, pajamas, and books.  I really miss those days.  I miss the days when my kids and grandkids would be in awe of the Christmas tree.  I miss when they would search for the alligator I have hidden in the tree.  Yes, there is a pickle in the tree, but the alligator was much more fun to search.  I miss them searching the tree to find the new ornament that year with their name on it.

Being in Arizona will be the start of new Christmas traditions.  Dennis’ son is coming in town next week and we will celebrate an early Christmas with him.  The following week, the week of Christmas, my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter will be with us.  My granddaughter is now 17 years old, and won’t have the same awe in the holiday that she had as a small child.  On the other hand, I am super excited to have them here for the holiday.  It will make our Christmas transition to Arizona a bit easier.

As I go shopping, I see “Let It Snow” decorations, and I just have to laugh.  I left Missouri because I don’t want to deal with snow.  Finding these many different decor items with this phrase seems so silly here in the valley of Arizona.  It could snow, but even if it did, it wouldn’t be significant.  The signs should say, “Let it snow in the mountains or elsewhere in the county.”  I want a Christmas sign to say “Let it Shine.”  That would be perfect.

I am enjoying the spiritual preparation for the holiday, because for me, that is what Christmas is really about.  Was Jesus born on December 25?  Most likely not, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s about remembering and celebrating his coming to earth.  It’s not IMG_0100about a babe in a manger, although that is how he came.  It is about God coming to earth as man, the only suitable sacrifice to make us reconnected with the God of the universe.  It’s about him preparing a way for us, living as a good example, but the purpose of coming to be a sacrifice for us.  Remember the ancient Jews had to make a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, starting with Passover, when they put the blood of the lamb on the door frame.  Jesus is our Passover lamb.  No longer do we need a sacrifice because Jesus willingly gave himself, to take on our sin, once and for all.  He died a horrible death for us.  It didn’t end there.  He didn’t stay dead.  He came back to life, and this was witnessed by a multitude of people who saw him after his death.  Christmas is just the beginning of the story.  Easter is the middle of the story.  The story is not over.  He will come again, and then all things will be made right on earth.  We will then really see “Peace on Earth.”  His birth brings “Peace on Earth” in a spiritual way to individuals, his death and resurrections brings “Peace on Earth” for now and to the future, and one day, He will bring this “Peace on Earth” back for all time.  Yes, I do believe that.

So, in the meantime, I celebrate Christmas in my feeble way.  I will decorate my home, bake my cookies, have a special dinner, and give gifts.  I will do all the trappings that our culture does for the holiday, but I know that the story is much bigger, and that gives me the Christmas spirit I wasn’t feeling a few minutes ago.

Wishing you a joyous Christmas!

 

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