While I was growing up, it seemed to me that our Christmas celebrations were invariable from one year to the next. The itinerary was always the same: gathering at the home of dear grandparent-like friends for the afternoon of Christmas Eve with a big meal, gifts, and games. Then, later that evening a get-together with our maternal grandparents for another meal and the ritual of handing out and opening the gifts stashed under the tree. The next morning, rushing downstairs (sometimes tumbling downstairs) to see what Santa had brought, followed by a Christmas morning brunch, often with a small surprise at each place setting. In the afternoon, the focus was on the big family meal with everyone we’d spent time with the day before. And finally, more games in the evening to cap off the celebration.
But before you get the idea that we were silver spoon babies, let me say that the gifts, though always thoughtful and appreciated, were often modest, the meals home-preserved and home-cooked, and the decorations handed down and handmade (but we always had the biggest Christmas tree Mom could find). We didn’t need to have the best to be our best.
Not for us the mall Santa ensconced on a throne in a mock Christmas village with helpful elves taking photos. We met up with our small-town St. Nick seated on a hard plastic waiting-room chair in the back of the local drugstore next to a cooler full of penicillin. My sister and I were still pretty excited about getting to spill on our wish lists no matter where we were. The holidays might have been predictable but they were never boring. What made them grand were the happy people among whom we spent our lives. The well of affection that bound us all was deep enough to last a lifetime and beyond.
This pattern continued well past my teens (okay, we stopped visiting Santa but with a brother fifteen years younger, he was still an overworked visitor to our house) and I couldn’t imagine it ever changing. But, of course, some things did change.
Gradually over the years new family members arrived, others relocated to far regions, and time or illness claimed precious lives. My place in the generational line shifted, much to my surprise; I never really felt much older (and still hadn’t achieved that air of certainty about many things that I assumed was the hallmark of the mature). Nonetheless, what never altered are the joy and the love that we share. Even when forced to spend the holidays apart, the memories of Christmases past are happy enough to inspire pleasure and gratitude rather than futile longing.
Our relationships, past and present, define who we are and perhaps it is the intergenerational connection that makes holidays and family events so special for many of us. The seasonal focus on giving and sharing, on friendship and family, the holiday’s origins in a miraculous mother-and-child relationship, underscore the significance of the ties we have with those who loved us first and best. No matter how old and wise we become ourselves, we never outgrow the need to feel cherished and understood.
I hope this season finds you among those you treasure or at least in possession of precious memories of laughter and love. Thanks for sharing your time with us these past months and accept our best wishes for a happy Christmas and joyful new year.
Debra and the Caruth Studio team
© Caruth Studio