So. I feel like blogging…so many things to blog about. The hard part is picking one. It’s the day after Christmas. Just got off the phone with my second oldest sister. This topic seems appropriate. For those who don’t know me, I’m the baby of 8 full-blooded siblings. My folks were married almost 50 years. I’m the youngest. Sixteen years separate me from the oldest. All but me and a brother are married and every one of us have at least 1 child. You’d think our Christmas would be filled with merriment and joy and family upon family. But no.
This blog will not be filled with happiness and joy, nor oozing with holiday delight and moments of love and cherished memories. No. I’m pissed. I’m pissed that I have such a large family and we don’t take the time to be together like we use to. If my Mom were still alive, she’d be pissed too. Oh yeah. We are getting together, on New Year’s Day. No food. Just stop by between 2pm and 5pm. I doubt everyone will stay 3 hours. Several nieces and nephews won’t be there and half of us live out of state. I wonder if everyone is going out of desirement or requirement. (I know it’s not a word. Sue me.) What gets me most is, back in the day, it was “we eat at noon.” You could show up early but rarely did anyone ever show up late without cause. And while it was hard to find a day when no one had committments with their inlaws, most stuck around until it was dark. What the hell is 2pm-5pm?? Having a beginning and ending time sounds more like a meeting, not a gathering of family. Maybe I should take doughnuts. (Yes. It’s okay to laugh. I am.)
Every year we use to gather on Christmas. If not Christmas day, a day very close to it. My old bedroom usually served as the coat room: I smile when I think about my old bed hidden with stacks of coats, scarfs, purses and gloves. And as you would suspect with a family my size, there were more gift than the livingroom could accomodate, but even better, it was a necessity to drag every chair and table from the basement upstairs so that no one had to stand. Everyone worked together, everyone pitched in. (No. I really had to go to the bathroom when it was time to do dishes. 😉 ) Kids chased each other down the hall, their laughs echoed from the basement where the adults would also congregate eventually to play ping pong or pool. The holiday feativites fostered a time for nieces and nephews to stregthen their bonds. A time for brothers and sisters to poke fun at ugly sweaters, compliment new hairdos, talk about new things in our lives, and maybe make a joke or two.
An array of food always adorned several tables and nooks and crannies in the kitchen. There was always chicken and dumplings – a specialty my Mom and Grandma would tediously and religiously begin preparing the night before. And everyone brought a dish. Some we became accustom to every year: my sister-in-laws famous 8-way potatoes. Another sister’s spin on broccoli casserole. Always the familiar, and ever so popular peanut butter balls, fudge and sugar cookies with the Hershey’s kiss on the top that my second oldest sister would make. They weren’t even popular that first year she made them. Oh. She has a way with desserts. When I saw her pull up, I always ran out to help her bring stuff in just so I could get a sniff.
We are a strong family based on faith, yet while we always said grace before a meal, one of my sister’s would always include Jesus by telling a story. Usually before opening gifts to remind us what the season was all about. My niece and nephews even put on a show one year, costumes and all. They were so proud and we were proud just watching them.
All of these things – the food, the family, the traditions, the working together, the laughs, the pokes, the attempts to avoid doing dishes, the watching grandma fall asleep upright in the recliner – it was what made the holiday special. Man. I love those memories. I can close my eyes and I’m there again.
If you find yourself complaining about traveling to visit inlaws, or trying to juggling seeing both sides of the family during the holidays, next year, just do it and be thankful. Don’t let the holiday’s become a chore. It’s not about presents and food and ugly sweaters. It’s about spending time together. Even if it’s in 3 hour allottment… No present, no dish, no card, will ever replace those moments. Maybe next year will be better. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second, even if there’s no sugar cookie with a hershey’s kiss in the middle, because it’s more about just being together because when you take all those little things in life and put them together, they become bigger than the biggest things. And those are often the most irreplaceable.
I’m not pissed anymore. The holidays may make me sad, but I know I’m still blessed. Even my own children were scattered around the states with their significant others. So, the holidays may not be exactly as I wish they would be, but I do appreciate the memories. Maybe that’s why I’m the first to volunteer to do dishes now….
You don’t need a holiday to hug the ones you love.
Oh! And let me add: remember the movie “A Christmas Story”? The mom goes through all the work to make a big meal, and the dog eats the turkey and ruins dinner so they go to a Chinese restaurant? It wasn’t about the food, it was about being together. Thanks for reminding me of that, Dave. While we just went there to eat, it meant much more to me than you know. But that’s how God works. In the simple details. I love you.