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 food, 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” Christmas 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 us 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.
This 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.
As 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.
Your Christmas story reminds me of our Thanksgiving story. My mother always cooked the Thanksgiving feast with some help from Dad and me, and we hosted Barb’s family. The year that she died, Dad and I undertook this chore. We made many calls to one of my aunts (the daughter of caterers), who was a superb cook. And we got a number of calls from her: “Did I remember to tell you to do THIS?” Meanwhile, she was railing on my dad’s brother: “Your brother is cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and you can’t even boil water!”
We got dinner on the table, and after a few minutes Russ looked up and said incredulously, “This is GOOD!”
That was the only year we made the ultimate effort. After that, we bought a prepared dinner from Schnucks. Very good, and much easier on the nerves.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall the Thanksgiving you and your dad made dinner. I know how much you don’t enjoy cooking! Happy New Year, my friend!
Beautiful. Change is hard, and now being the oldest generation, the great-grandmother, means that people have their own traditions, as you said. I had my granddaughter and last two great-grands over, and it wasn’t until those children entered the house, that it felt like Christmas. They are six months and twenty-two months. So the holiday doesn’t feel the same, butthe love remains and the reality that life continues. I liked reading your Christmas history. Happy new year!
So true. The little ones bring us back to those memories and Christmas spirit we felt! So much of our holidays, I have discovered, revolve around the mom, and when the mom is gone, there is a new normal. Happy New Year to you. May it be a year of peace, joy, contentment, and good health for you and yours!
I hope you and Dennis had a very Merry Christmas!
I, too, thought about how Christmas has changed for us over the years! The presents under the tree have gotten smaller – no more Tonka trucks and Big Wheels – now there are watches, golf balls, and gift cards! We have traditions with Ron’s family here in California at Christmas but I told Ron that we need to get over to Arizona one Christmas soon to share it with my family. We haven’t done that since the boys were in high school and participating in holiday basketball tournaments!
I think I recognize the picture you posted – the living room of your parents’ home on Sunset Terrace, right?
Happy New Year Andrea!
Yes, you recognized my parents’ living room! We have a great Christmas, although learning a new normal. And, yes, you need to come to Arizona! Happy New Year!