Christmas always makes me a little maudlin. I think mainly because the last time I spent it with my family was in 1978. I know I’m a little old to want to spend this time of year with my parents and my brother and his family. But I always miss them badly this time of year. It has been 33 years after all. It would also be nice to spend Christmas with both my kids. I’ll be with my daughter but my son who lives in America I haven’t spent Christmas with since he was about one.
I guess the thing I really miss, are the family get together’s we had when I was a child. One day would be set aside to see the grandparents and ALL the local family. The next day would be reserved for my grandmother and the slightly smaller local family. Both days were full of laughter, jokes, stories and great food.
At my grandparents the women would all get together in the kitchen. There they’d help Grandma finish the dishes she’d started preparing and unwrapping all the goodies they’d brought to eat. The men would set in the front room or on the porch and drink copious cups of coffee and smoke. The kids did what children always do when they are together: bicker, squabble, play and get excited over the prospect of extra presents.
Once the food was served up the kids ate in one of the many bedrooms in my grandparent’s house. I still remember when I got old enough to join the adults in the main room of the house. I felt very grown up and a little proud. Of course the highlight of the day for me was sitting out on the front porch with Grandpa and drinking coffee. While we froze our asses off, he told the most marvellous stories about when he was younger. These mostly consisted of when he travelled all over the place doing migratory work to feed his many children. He picked peaches on the Mexican border and worked in a lumber camp in Colorado, just to name two. As far as I know I was the only grandchild to be told these stories. It made me feel very special.
At my Grandmother’s house, the whole thing was a bit smaller. Less family members but just as much fun. One of my favourite Uncles was always there. I adored him. To me, and yes it sounds silly I know, he made me think of a “white” Sammy Davis Jr. It was his voice I think. Oh I don’t mean he could sing like Sammy, but when he talked, he had the same kind of voice. But his main attraction, I think, was his colourful language. He’d been in the Navy and his vocabulary reflected this. Plus he was funny. He saw life as being funny and was a very jokey character.
Of course the “women-in-the-kitchen” and the “men-in-the-main-room” tradition was also practised at my Grandmother’s with the kids acting exactly the same. The main difference was no-one went out onto the porch for coffee and smokes. There wasn’t one.
I guess, in retrospect, what I really miss this time of year are those old celebrations with mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I suppose I also miss the wonder of being a child and seeing everything through a child’s eyes. Long after I discovered that there really was no Santa Claus, Christmas still held a special place in my heart. It was a time when the whole family put their differences aside and got together. Quite an accomplishment when you consider how big that family was.
I guess we all lose the “wonder” of Christmas when we grow up. It’s harder to see the magic of the holiday. And yes, it is magic. What other time of the year brings families together in such a way. I’ll never forget those special times at my grandparents with my mom, dad and brother. Oh we had fun at Christmas in our house too, but that was like the preamble to the main event.
So like the song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”