Traditions and family memories

On a positive note...

Traditions and family memories are right at the top of my mind in these days before Christmas. Most of my extended family are scattered to many different locations around the country — Delaware, Missouri, California and Oregon. We don’t have the large family celebrations I remember from my childhood. In fact, usually it’s a nice, quiet gathering with my favorite two guys and our fur boys.

But I miss those crazy, noisy gatherings around my mom’s large dining table. Loaded down with turkey and the many dishes she and others had prepared, Mom would hover around the table, making sure that everyone had their fill before she touched a fork to her lips. She was a wonderful hostess and made sure everyone around the table enjoyed the day.

The jokes and funny stories that circulated around the table were always enjoyable. My nieces and nephews went to great measures to try and shock dear Grandma, who would always take the bait and scold them, giving them “The Look,” that sideways glance that hinted at disapproval but secretly hid her bemusement.

After dinner, there was the rush for the Christmas tree and Mother’s strict admonitions that everyone is to open one gift at a time so all could see what was given.

That rule drove me crazy. As a 7 or 8-year-old, I saw no point in holding back. My fingers were fairly itching to rip that paper open to see what was inside. But then that would spoil another of my mom’s rules — don’t rip the paper or ribbons, we can reuse them next year.

After dinner and presents, we’d go for our annual Christmas Day stroll around the old hometown. We’d look at all the things that had changed from the past year. We’d make a stop in front of the furniture store, and do goofy contortions all because of the cool optical illusion created by the wall of windows. As we walked along, sometimes we’d run into high school chums who were also back in town for the holidays. It’s funny, the town always seemed so much bigger when we were young. What used to seem like miles between two points was actually just a few blocks.

After the walk, if there was snow on the ground, the younger crowd would head to Holy Bumps, the best sledding hill in town. Dressed in snow pants and parkas, they’d swoosh down the hill on sleds and saucers. A good-natured snowball fight was usually capped off the afternoon.

I look forward to spending time with my husband and son this holiday, playing board games, cooking together and opening presents. This year, we’ll share Christmas greetings with faraway family via Skype. That’s a great way to stay in touch if you can’t be there Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas, dear readers. Have a safe and happy holiday.

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