Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Weaving of Traditions

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, 
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

I am trying here. Really, really trying. Tearing up when I read these words from The Grinch to my kids. Much like the way we tell them size, looks, money doesn't matter- it is the spirit within them that does- so there lies Christmas. With it's size, importance of right gifts, insurance that all are happy and completely bathed in the holiday. 

In the heart of Christmas is religion for some. Once upon a time it had that draw for me and it remains the time of year when I miss going to church. But what has always been the true heart of it for me has been tradition. I remember the details of Christmas past with my family while growing up in NY. Better- rituals would be the word. I long for them now as an almost 40 year old, feeling young and worrisome because I can't have those traditions anymore. And nor should I. It is time to make my own. 

And though I DO stress about who is getting what and do I have enough and did I bake enough and will I get that picture done in time to get the Christmas card out and will I really make it to the Post Office this week??? I stress/obsess the most about the traditions.  Because though I do remember getting my Cabbage Patch doll from Santa and I do remember my first piece of grown up jewelry having slivers of diamonds from Dad, what I remember the most is the trimming of the tree. 

The setting out of decorations.

The putting tinsel on the tree Christmas Eve as my mom handed us small clumps of the stuff (a tradition starting out as managing 5 small kids and friggin' tinsel! and developing into the ritual of the night). 

Our stockings always went up Christmas Eve, and came down in the night, filled with goodies, and placed at the spot where we were to set up camp in the living room to open presents. 

Stockings before breakfast, presents after. 

My brother,Terence, handing out the presents and opening his along the way which gave a nice pause to the FRANTIC NEED TO RIP AND TEAR. 

The noise. (The noise, noise, noise, noise...) The sounds of us calling "Mom! Look! Mom!!!" even at the age when we knew she knew what Santa gave us, but she had to see us react and enjoy what we received. 

Watching Mom opening up her usuals: new oven mitts, a new timer (every few years), new spatula, a bottle of Chanel 19 (oh, the smell makes me warm and anxious to see her face) a turkey baster or oven thermometer. 

I love it. I remember and I feel small and warm and far away. And then I come back to myself and wonder- have I given my kids enough of this?

I think I have. 

I screwed myself when it comes to wrapping gifts- a huge focus on how to present gifts. In the early years I used to give each child their own paper so they knew visually what was theirs and stopped the mistaken opening of another child's gifts and the follow up wails. Then my husband weighed in on learning the whole Santa deal when he found "Santa's wrapping paper" in his own basement. Should I burn the leftover paper? Would they remember if I use that paper on gifts from me 365 days later. Together we said "Evelyn would". And one year I stopped the separation of wrapping paper and one noticed and questioned. ARRGH!!!! I don't even know my approach for this year.

But other than that shaky ground, We have it down.

We chop down our own tree- a Rob's side tradition. We bring cocoa and cookies. 

The kids decorate the tree. 

We then have to turn off the lights, turn on the tree and hold hands and sing- a Colleen tradition started when she was 4 that we kept. (My guess inspired by the Whos down in Whoville.)

The stockings go up well before Christmas Eve (which kills meeeeeeee but I move on) but I set up their camps with the filled stockings when they are asleep Christmas Eve. 

I am trying to get them to do the stockings-breakfast-presents routine as it draws out the fun that starts at an ungodly hour. I think I got my way last year and intend to get it again this year.

There is a lovely, bittersweet, difference this year. Many of the decorations that are seared into my memories from growing up are now in my home. They were handed over, much like a torch, by my mom. My children have played with them and placed them around the things they have been growing up with so far. 

My childhood is being woven into their own. I feel it in my chest when I look. It is beautiful. It comes from a great change that makes me feel wistful, but it is a true part of life. 

I have a box of some of the decorations set to go to one brother who can't be here for Christmas. I have told my other brothers to take what decorations and ornaments of our childhood they would like as they leave my house after our celebration so they can add it to their home. I like to think some day these childhood decorations that belonged to my parents, my decorations, and my adult children's decorations will all come together this time of year. The weaving of traditions and sentimental visuals continuing on long past a time I will ever know.

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