My Father had four brothers. Every year we gathered, with their families on the night before Christmas at my Grandparent’s house. There were nineteen of us jammed into that tiny house.
There was no agenda. We played no games. We sang no carols. We sat around and talked to each other. The grownups asked the cousins how things were going at school. The cousins talked to each other about what ever was popular with kids and teenagers at the time. And the brothers and their wives talked about work, politics, movies and I don’t know what else.
My Father was an identical twin. If he was in a different room from his brother it was easy to confuse them. There were many occasions when one of the cousins would be talking to one and thought it was the other. Sometimes I even had to look twice. And then my uncle started to wear bow ties and that stopped the fun.
There were not lots of presents to open. Checks were passed out to the brothers as Christmas presents for the whole family. The cousins each received a Christmas card which contained a quarter taped to the inside. We eventually graduated to five dollars, if I remember correctly, inflation. And one present was given to the Grandparents which was purchased with the contributions from each family and selected by the sisters-in-law in turn. Cookies and coffee were served and then we went home or on to other parties.
It sounds boring doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t. We all had a great time with these simple pleasures. We saw each other often. There seemed to be some reason to gather almost every month. And the routine was pretty much the same. Talking, maybe someone would bring out a cribbage board or deck of cards, in nice weather some of us might go for a walk together. And when we didn’t gather as a group we would drop in, unannounced on one family or another. It was just what you did in our family.
Now after we left my Grandparent’s house some went to midnight mass, some went home because Santa visited while we gathered and some went on to other parties. My family went on to another party.
This party was much more outgoing and loud. It was held at our neighbors house across the street. There were lots of presents under the tree for everyone who was there. Neighbors would drop in and there would be presents for them as well. There was a good amount of “holiday cheer” and a table laden with food at the end of the night, usually sometime after midnight. Grandma Libby, who was French Canadian, made her special meat pies. We waited all year for this treat and could never get enough of it. She gave me her recipe but I could never make them taste the same.
There was singing and laughter, we watched The Lawrence Welk Christmas show. I always received slippers and was asked how my love life was? This was really embarrassing as I was just a shy kid and love life was not on my agenda. But we all had a great time. As we crossed the street on the way home, crunching through new fallen snow in the wee hours, it all seemed magical. May your holidays be magical too.
Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth
all rights reserved Diane Kern 2010