As I was trolling through my Christmas memories, I realized how times have changed for me. As a child, Christmas dinner was turkey with all the trimmings (just like Thanksgiving. Presents I received through the years: a kitten, a bicycle, toys and as a teenager, clothes. We never went anywhere else but stayed at home and enjoyed the holiday with family.
After I married, the traditions were pretty much the same. Hang the stockings by the fireplace. My first Christmas after a divorce I decided not to trim a tree or do anything special because the kids would be with their father. Big mistake — one I never made again. My only decoration was a silver bowl filled with tree ornaments, pine cones and evergreens. This bowl was kind of spooky because when I returned from work every day, at least one or more ornaments were on the floor. (No, we had no pets.) Puzzled, I couldn’t find the answer. About a week later, the answer was clear as the crystal angel on the shelf. The pine cones were drying out and expanding pushing the ornaments out of the bowl. What a relief, the house was not haunted.
During my last marriage my honey was into Christmas as much as I. He hung outdoor lights and draped the lights on the tree. My middle son (Roy) was also a Christmas person and he liked to hang the ornaments, so I left this job for him whenever he came home from college. We threw a Christmas Open House party for a few friends and neighbors, starting at 11:00 a.m. and ending whenever. We tried to do a Christmas dinner after the party and gave up that idea switching Christmas dinner to Christmas Eve along with the exchange of presents. By this time the main course was a standing rib roast.
On one Christmas day, we left to pick up my son and told our guests to be comfortable and have a good time. Imagine our surprise when we returned and found everyone still there and still eating. We served bacon, sausage, ham, scrambled eggs, pancakes, creamed chicken on biscuits, sweet rolls, vats of coffee and bowls of eggnog. It was fun, but change was in the wind and we started driving to Michigan to have Christmas with our daughter and grandchildren.
After a financial disaster in our lives, we didn’t have the wherewithal to buy presents. Through the years, we had given the grown kids all kinds of puzzles, including Rubik’s cube. I wrapped each one and then we put them all ( there were about 20 of them) in a garbage bag, tied a huge red bow on the bag and labelled it “Family Grab Bag.” The kids still remember that Christmas and it proved to me that we didn’t have to spend the traditional arm and a leg to make them happy at the holidays.
Many years have passed since my “Christmasy” son died, but I remember the good times. Then the love of my life died nine days before Christmas. I had already decorated the house and put up the tree. I was not feeling real celebratory, but I had promised my husband I would be okay. I spent Christmas Day that first year at my youngest son’s (Charlie) home with my daughter-in-law’s (Gail) family. The menu changed again–now we had lasagna, shrimp, ham, potato salad, antipasto, still lots of coffee, and wine. A few months after that Christmas I moved in (being the wicked mother-in-law). The family has changed some as Gail’s father passed away a few months before my Harvey and her mother is no longer able to be here. Her sister is probably working and if not, at her daughter’s house with her grandchildren.
I spend a couple of days being sad about the losses in my life and then realize the great gifts I have in my family and friends. We have had sad Christmases, unemployment Christmases (half the family were without jobs), financially difficult Christmases–but we have had joy and love and wonderful memories to fill our lives.
I still love the Christmas holidays.
Merry Christmas to you all.