With 5 kids in our house growing up, Christmas was always an exciting event. It is one of those holidays that needs to evolve as families evolve. We usually stayed home on Christmas morning and went to my aunt and uncles house for Christmas dinner. There were times when Uncle Hap played Santa and came to the house.
Sometimes though Aunt Julia and Uncle Harry and Aunt Bea would come to our house, either way it was always so much fun and quite exciting, with the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Mom listened and observed each of us so well and “Santa” always brought exactly what we needed and wanted. Mom often talks about the year the kids all got up at 3 am and had everything opened before her and dad got up. The year of the toboggan was one of the best and as always a family gift.
That is mom and dad in the midst of all of this tobogganing fun.
We often got those kinds of gifts, family gifts, for us to enjoy together, best gifts ever really and I would say the closest thing to buying time.
Lots of years of lots of food and lots of fun and lots of love.
I would never have changed any moment of my childhood… until August 31, 1969.
That was the day that Mom suddenly lost Dad.
Five kids lost their dad that day too and it was the worst day of all of our lives. What mom lost was far different than what any of the rest of us experienced that day and beyond. She never really expressed what she felt, there were moments of expressing her sadness but that was it.
“I just wish I had been able to have more time with him.”
This quote of hers will always stay with me – simple and heartfelt.
Hard for me to jump right back into the holiday talk but I’m going to. After you lose someone you love , it seems that the first of everything after they are gone is the hardest to try to adjust to. The first birthday, anniversary, Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, etc.
Well the first Christmas after Dad passed away I can not even begin to imagine what mom was going through and you know what, I don’t think that I thought about what she was going through either. Bruce and Barbara wanted to have something special for a family gift (mom told me this , years later) so they got the pool table that year. That is how we learned to play pool. Things evolved, rapidly after that year, as they do, as families change.
Aunt Julia and Uncle Harry and Aunt Bea would still join us but that gap was evident, a missing puzzle piece, a black hole.
The gatherings got smaller each year as someone would move out and share the holidays with their significant others and families. Eventually Aunt Julia and Uncle Harry moved to Florida and Aunt Bea passed away. All of that is a normal evolution of the holidays for all families. When we all had our own kids and we were scattered about the country we did different things but always thought of each other and we all tried to find time to talk to each other on Christmas eve or Christmas day.
Mom and I always spent Christmas together wherever I was, I was the one that was always closest in mileage. There were some inconsistent years for a while, say 20, but whoever was around we would get together sharing food and exchanging gifts. Some years we were a large group and some years a little smaller.
Gift giving evolved too, and just like most families we eventually decided to cut back on the gift giving and buy for only our own kids and mom of course.
Our newer traditions also evolved; Christmas eve we would have a big dinner at home joined by Barbaras family, then we would all go to church, and then back to Barbara and Michael’s for dessert and gifts. The gift giving evolution was really fun as the kids got older. We tried it all, drew names, yankee swap, family gifts, my personal favorite, “if I could get you” gifts. It was so much fun just being together and as we all know it really has never been about the gifts.
Mom loves time with family, any and all of them/us. For years at Christmas, mom would get everyone who lived close enough, a gift certificate to a local restaurant with the understanding that we would all go together. That was her way of getting more of that time together. That too has evolved.
How about what to get mom for a gift now.? Everyone has been a little creative, Bruce usually would send her a pretty floral arrangement and moms loves that. One year Katie and Tim sent her a “cookie of the month” gift. Mom and I have always done our stockings for each other, it’s been fun. I get baffled now and then, I hate to waste money just for the sake of getting her a gift, however I always put panties in her stocking.
“oh and they are pretty too” .
I had gotten her panties with lace around the top. Yes even at 89 she still loves to feel pretty and the feeling of looking nice. So it is the feeling and not necessarily the lace on the panties or even a gift for that matter.
She really only needs time, family gifts of time together, that is what creates the feeling. The boys always call – she may not recollect any part of the conversation but she absolutely remembers that they call.
She can not crochet a dishcloth this year, she wont be making peanut butter balls, she wont fall asleep making gravy this year, and we wont be getting together at a restaurant this year, but she will happily spend time with you. She will chat with you on the phone or she will sit and watch the little kids play or the bigger kids gather together and be goofy. Although she doesn’t eat much at all, she loves to see the feast, and she always looks for the sweets. Baileys Irish Cream, we can not forget her Baileys.
Her gift to us, is time.
Mom always just goes with the flow, she always has, and even though she has a tough time remembering what is going on, she remembers how she feels in situations. The feeling she gets from being with and hearing from family is the best gift, and for her and dad it always had been too, it exudes from her face, her smile and her whole demeanor brightens.
We sat and colored Christmas pictures the other day. I thought I should have been doing laundry or dusting or a thousand other household chores, but then I remembered the gift of time and Moms quote.
“I just wish I had been able to have more time with him.”
How have I let time go by and how did I get so caught up in other things that I could neglect the time, our time. That gift does not have to be on Christmas day or Christmas eve and it doesn’t need to be in the form of an actual gift.
Our time together is often quiet these days, but it is somehow quite comforting to have someone that you love just be near.
“what can I get you for Christmas? ”
“oh geez, mom, I don’t know, I really don’t need anything, how about we start a new tradition?’
………….. and we will continue to evolve.