The Holiday Season: Three Generations

18 11 2007

holiday1Christmas at my grandmother’s house was about tradition. She’d tell you right to your face that she couldn’t stand all of the crap that went into staging one of these events. My grandmother didn’t mince words. But every year she decorated, cooked, wrapped presents, and every year, despite all of her misgivings, she managed to create a holiday atmosphere that, to this day, I still think of as the “real Christmas.” I was younger then, of course. Everything was a little more magical back in those days. But we had a lot more family living back then, too, and during the holidays my grandmother was the center of gravity around which we all revolved.

When my grandmother passed away, my mom became the new “center of gravity.” A lot had changed. We lost my grandfather not long after my grandmother passed, and many of the “old family” had already passed away, or had moved out of state. My mom had divorced my stepfather (after fourteen miserable years) and we were all older. As much as I still enjoyed the holiday season, it had lost some of that “magical” feel that I remember so fondly from my childhood. I was a teen, looking straight down the barrel of adulthood (time packs a large caliber pistol, by the by) and my mother, unbeknownst to any of us, was moving into the final phaholiday2se of a life that would be cut short by breast cancer. My mother wasn’t as lavish with the decorations and preparations as my grandmother had been, but she was every bit the same stickler for tradition. I think my mom enjoyed the holidays more than my grandmother, probably because she didn’t drive herself to exhaustion trying to make it look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Christmas at my mother’s house was about family, first and foremost, a distant echo of those long-ago holiday extravaganzas that–for our sakes–my grandmother endured.

When my mother died of breast cancer in August, 1995, at the age of 53, I stopped celebrating the holiday season in any meaningful way. In December of that year I simply wasn’t in the mood, and two months later, my marriage of twelve years ended suddenly in divorce. After that I couldn’t really see any point in a holiday celebration. I was living alone for the first time in my life, I had no family to speak of, and I had fallen into a rather ugly depression. In fact, I didn’t celebrate the holiday season for five years, until I met and married my second wife. My wife combines all the beholiday3st aspects of both my grandmother and my mother in that she has the same theatrical flair for decorating and organizing that my grandmother had, and the appreciation for “bringing family together” that was so dear to my mother. She brings her own set of cultural and family traditions to the mix, including a healthy dose of the “real meaning” behind our celebration. And there was yet another major change to occur in my life, completing rearranging my perceptions and attitudes toward everything in general…I became a father. There is something about watching my son during the holidays–I mean from Halloween night all the way through Christmas morning–that takes me straight back to my own childhood. I get just as excited now, watching him, as I was when I was his age, all those long years ago, at grandma’s house on Christmas Eve.

For me, the circle is complete. For my son, a new circle is begun. The holidays are magical, once again.




4 responses

18 11 2007

I’m smiling at the top picture on this post. I have a similar one of my mother in her nightgown, posed by the tree with her gifts.

Was that once a “required photo pose” or something? What I mean is that in my living memory I’ve never known any grownup to pose in a nightgown by the tree! We put on regular clothes first.

As for the magic of the holidays, I’m afraid once we have to open our pocketbooks, much of the magic is gone. That’s why it’s so wonderful for kids but less so for grownups. We’re the ones getting the bill for it all in January.

I did have a magical Christmas with my husband one year, though, and it was because we got a gift that cost no one anything. It snowed. In Houston. On Christmas Eve. We went to the park and walked around at night with the tiny flakes coming down, dusting our hair and collecting in the folds of our jackets. We even built a tiny snowman. It was magic, and I wouldn’t have valued a snowfall in a always-snowy place in nearly the same way. This was a very special gift and I’ll remember it always.

23 11 2007
daily interesting

Guess who just brightened up my day? 🙂 Thanks a lot!

23 11 2007

Thank you both for reading and taking the time to comment. It means a lot to me! Happy Holidays!

15 12 2008

Your story brings back a lot of memories both sad and happy. Thanks.

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