Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmases Past & Present

Gabe & Mati making cookies
     It’s two days before Christmas. The boys are here, and we’ve made sugar cookies and decorated them. The boys also managed to decorate the countertop, the floor and themselves as well. But what the heck, we’re not just making cookies. We’re building memories.
I still have some candy to make, and the dessert and vegetable to prepare for Christmas Eve dinner. I also have a couple of gifts to wrap. It’s raining, so the boys can’t play outside. But while the little one naps, and the older one plays with a friend, I sneaked into my office to post this blog.
There isn’t time to write a full-fledge post, so I’m re-posting a slightly revised version of last year’s Christmas essay.
Merry Christmas to all, and have a blessed New Year.

A Touch of Holiday Nostalgia

I usually get very nostalgic and sometimes sad around Christmas. This started long before my husband died, but his death certainly adds to the sadness. I think it has to do with remembrances of Christmas past, when my dad's side of the family got together to celebrate.
Most of my dad's three brothers (a fourth died when I was a toddler), three sisters and their children would gather at Thanksgiving at my Aunt Vera's. She's dead now, and so are all but two aunts. I miss the missing ones most during the holidays. Like they say, when the generation ahead of you is gone, so is the umbrella between you and eternity.
I can still see those long tables set up in Aunt Vera’s basement, laden with the yummy foods my aunts would bring. That's how I learned that mac 'n cheese didn't originally come in a box, the way my mom made it. My Aunt Rubye made the most mouth-watering mac 'n cheese I’ve ever tasted.
After lunch, we’d draw names. Then we'd get together again around Christmas and exchange gifts. Grandpa Hobson used to buy something for everyone, but because there were so many of us, he couldn't spent much on each. They were token gifts, but I appreciated the thought. My mom, however, didn't. He often gave the women hosiery, but at 5'9-1/2" tall,  her legs were too long for any of them to fit. She always resented that.
  As the family grew, exchanging gifts became expensive. My cousin Ed had five children, and announced one Thanksgiving that he could no longer afford to buy the extra gifts. He suggested we let the kids draw and exchange, and that worked out fine. I can't remember when we stopped the name-drawing altogether.
After Aunt Vera died, my Aunt Rubye and I took turns hosting the gatherings. Once I had a friend come to my house dressed as Santa Claus. We took pictures of the kids (and a few grownups) sitting on his lap. No one knew him, and because Ed had not arrived yet (like income tax refunds, he and Diane are perpetually late), everyone assumed it was he. You should have seen the looks on their faces when Ed and Diane walked in! 
(Back) First cousins Pat, Ed & Elaine, with
Elaine's niece, Lennon (center)
One Thanksgiving stands out because of a game. It was my cousin Pat's idea to play "Oldyweds," based on the then-popular TV game show, "The Newlyweds." She picked out three couples who had been married for various lengths of time.  Pat sent the three husbands into one room, their wives into another, and everyone was instructed to contemplate three questions. One of them was: "When was the last time your spouse made you mad?" When my Aunt Violet recalled the last time Uncle Alvin had made her mad, she got angry all over again just thinking about it.
When I moved out here to the country, I tried to keep up the Christmas gathering tradition. It was hit or miss, because aunts and uncles were aging and cousins became their care-givers. Everyone had so much to do during the holidays, so many church and school obligations, that it was difficult to get many to come. So I stopped. It took a cousin's funeral to get us started again.
This year, only two families showed up, but I still had a house full. There were 12-15 of us, including three first cousins. I didn’t have time to decorate for Christmas, because it was Thanksgiving weekend. We chose that time because my brother’s daughter was visiting from California and wanted to meet everyone.
We all agreed we should get together more often.  We’re considering a barbecue and pool party at a cousin’s house next summer. There's nothing like seeing a bunch of old geezers in swim suits to get the nostalgia juices flowing.