The holidays. I’m already exhausted by the creative jealousy I feel for others’ Elf on the Shelf photo montages. Not that I have an Elf on the Shelf, or children old enough to understand what that is. But still…those moms can really orchestrate an elfin fantasy, no?
This year Christmas has caught me with my pants down. Last year we had a 12-month-old, and therefore a small, tabletop tree to prevent ornament damage and tree tipping. This year, we have a 13-month-old, and the tiny tree is back. It’s a pretty tree as far as fake miniatures go, but I miss the heady pine smell that comes with a big, real tree. You know the smell I mean–like there’s a mob of lumberjacks in your living room. Next year, for sure.
This time of year brings lots of family gatherings. Every year on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, I start missing my grandparents. My dad’s parents were really great gift picker-outers. For a long time I was the only grandchild, which subjected me to lots of Christmas spoiling. My grandmother was also a terrific quilter, knitter, and seamstress, and I still have many of her handmade treasures (thanks for saving them, Mom!). In fact, Grady is wearing a sweater in this picture that was knitted by her in 1973. I love that she can keep my babies warm, even from afar.
My father’s family is prone to drinking a LOT of tea when we get together. We all drink it the same way, with milk and sugar. My parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all drink tea this way. It’s courtesy of my grandmother’s Welsh heritage–another way to keep us warm from afar. When my kids are old enough to have caffeine without zooming around the house like toddler-sized rockets, I’ll teach them the same.
My mother’s parents have a zillion grandchildren. Okay–not really. I’m the third of thirteen. We were a loud gaggle of kids, and that was probably the reason that Diddy and Pap kept their tree in the basement. This was a wise move. Cacophonous mayhem erupted at present-opening time. Cousins scrambled and threw elbows to find their gifts under the tree, my grandfather hovering nearby with a real film camera, my uncles with giant video cameras perched on their shoulders. I have a vivid memory of wading knee-deep in wrapping paper to show my haul to my parents.
I realize that I’m mentioning presents a lot. When you’re a kid, present time is the best part of Christmas, which is why those moments stuck with me. I can’t name 99% of the gifts I got, but I do remember the tea, the hugs, the warmth of the dinner table, the giggling with cousins, and the sound of my grandmother’s electric knife as it blazed through the turkey.
Like every adult everywhere, Christmas is not the same as it was when I was a kid. It’s harder for all of us to get together at the same place and time. Some have moved away. Three of my grandparents are gone. I feel the lack of those traditions from my childhood. Frankly most aren’t even traditions–just nameless stuff we did every year when we were together. But it was our nameless stuff, and it made for a cozy Christmas. It mattered.
I’m striving to create new traditions or my kids. I have a few years to pick the traditions because they won’t remember the early Christmases. I know, it’s cheating. So far all I’ve got are Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for breakfast as we open gifts in our pajamas.
Tonight I’m missing the grandparents who are no longer with us. I know my kids would have loved them so.