We have just finished another Christmas Holiday. Since everyone has returned home, the wife and I take our second cup of coffee, in the chairs arranged diagonally to the fireplace. The timed Christmas tree lights have come on and are glowing behind us. In my six and half decades most Christmas’s remembrances are lost, a few however, remain. Ours was a close-nit group, Mom’s parents, her sisters’ family and the three of us, for the big dinner on Christmas Eve, the present followed and on Christmas Day, the leftovers and toys.
The Christmas that I was five or six, set the path for an attitude that has not changed. The evening events were in swing, and true to form we had lots of sweets. This year, however, the sweets were off-limits, I had a cavity that drove me to tears. My father’s remedy was to place a whole clove on the tooth and bite down hard. Yes the pain subsided, but the flavor, is one that I refuse to endure even today, in any food.
Seemingly, my grandmother (her mother) was the person that businesses longed for. Stuff was her measure of love. She was never happier, than if she had the most presents to open. My aunt, also, followed in her foot steps. My poor uncle did his best to surprise and overwhelm her, but to no avail. I barely remember a Christmas where she was satisfied with anything.
Thirteen for Dinner was not only a mystery book title, but an omen. We had a dinner one Christmas Day and I don’t remember everyone around the table, but Sam, our farmhouse sitter/renter, looked around and said, “this is not good, 13 at the table, one won’t be here next year.” True to the word, then next year we lost my dad’s father.
My dad’s parents had divorced years before and his mother had remarried. My grandmother and step-grandfather were invited up from Southern Illinois one Christmas. (Hold that thought) My uncle drove a Studebaker (for amusement, look it up on the Web), he, my aunt and two cousins would come for the weekend. Somehow, he managed to pack more packages in that car that you can put in an empty SUV! His amount of presents equaled what we already had under the tree. Return now to the picture of my never before attending grandparents to this event. They brought their singular loving gifts for each of us, but even as a teenage, I felt their uneasiness. They looked like they felt out-of-place with the mountains of gifts sitting around. The picture on their faces has remained with me.
My employer promoted me and a staff of forty soon reported directly to me. You don’t know how I deplored Christmas at the office. I was receiving gifts from people earning half or less salary than me. The third year, we modified the event, the staff and I would ombine our gift money and find persons in need, buy, wrap and deliver the gifts instead of the in-house exchange. It started small, less the ten needy children, by the time I left that position more than 50 families were being helped. My successor eliminated the gifting the very following Christmas.
Christmas time is different now, with our kids married, and all the families and blended families wanting their “special” time, but this year we did have all the kids home together on Christmas Day, including the ten grandchildren and my mother. I don’t know what my kids do at their homes, but here, we’ve decided to cut down on the number of gifts. We have tried to get them to cut down on us also. After all, the greatest gift was a baby being born, and the love of family, all together.