I remember my childhood Christmas’s. It was the maternal side that got together. My grandmother had two children, daughters, both married and all three families lived within 20 miles of each other (at least until I was 13). Christmas Eve was ALWAYS at our house, with a BIG meal, followed by everyone returning Christmas day for the leftovers. We didn’t have a fireplace, but NO PROBLEM! We kids were convinced that Santa left the presents on the front porch of fireplace-less houses! The presents always arrived AFTER the dishes were washed (by hand in those days!!). The presents were attacked, I mean unwrapped on Christmas Eve. It was a GREAT time. My grandparents (mom’s parents), my parents ( I am an only child), my aunt and uncle with their two daughters. Christmas– was uncomplicated!
When I married, my wife’s family was JUST like ours, they got together on Christmas Eve!. Her grandparents (on the maternal side), her siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. Later we added kids to the picture AND 600 miles of distance, Christmas gathering became more complicated. We did the “eve” at her grandparents and then got to my parents house around midnight. My dad wanted our children to open presents that evening also! Whoa, were those kids tired (as was I). The rest of our my mother’s family got together with us Christmas Day.
The Readers Digest had this short story, about this man and his father, regularly going to lunch, the patriarch, dad always picked up the tab. Then one day the dad, pushed the tab to his son, a change in responsibility occurred. The passing. Change is inevitable.
We were living in Minnesota. On the 600 mile return drive one Christmas from Indiana, we hit freezing rain in Wisconsin, then snow, a blizzard by the time we found the Minnesota state line. We slid into the our driveway with 10 inches on the ground and drifts everywhere. We called both families the next morning and announced that we had attended our last Indiana Christmas gathering. We would be starting a new tradition in Minnesota. I felt good, the passing had begun.
All of our grandparents are now gone. With the father-in-law in Mulberry RFD, we have his side of the family at our house for the “gathering”, the weekend before Christmas. Although gift exchange no longer continues, everyone gets to see him, who wants to, even though he doesn’t always remember who they are.
One of our sons lives 800 miles east, the other son 180 miles west and our daughter 50 miles south. Two of our children have spousal family Christmas commitments, that often means we don’t always see each other on the same day.
I haven’t approached the family Christmas time with much excitement in recent years, and my wife has noticed. I keeping thinking back to the Reader’s Digest, “The Passing”. I’m beginning to fathom the effect, that winter morning, when our parents picked up the phone and learned that we were starting a “the new family Christmas tradition”.
When I married, I could only see that day, not into the next year; when we had our first child I could only see the only holding. not the walking. Envision if you will, how we raise children, holding the baby because its needs caring, then keeping your hands around the toddler during first steps. As children grow you gradually remove your protection, because one day they will pass into adulthood. As a parent you want them prepared for the challenges of being an adult.
It’s so satisfying watching your children become responsible adults and responsible parents, but, I really want to continue to experience Christmas through my 6-year-old children’s eyes; now I see why my dad wanted to opened presents at midnight……
Now, as an adult with grown children, my job is accomplished, but I’m not satisfied. I want to scoop them back up in my arms and bring them back home where they belong, in my mind of 30 years ago……..
The problem with the passing????…..is it continue moving forward, and passing right before my eyes……