The Ghost of Christmas Past…

Christmas,tree,holiday,

Not my tree, but isn’t it gorgeous?

Hello there! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? The holiday season was very hectic here at Casa de Wench. See, The Mister’s family is all here in South Jersey, but my family is from my home-area of Central PA Dutch Country. Given the short time that existed this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, The Mister and I were very busy. I was going to do a Holiday Gift Guide post, and I never did, because I was lost in memories of Christmases past, and all the material things I had on my list were usurped by a compelling desire to have just one Christmas like the ones I had growing up, the ones that brought a warm glow to my heart when I recounted them to The Mister. 

You know, I don’t really buy into the commercialism and materialism of Christmas, the only reason I even ventured out after dinner on Thanksgiving was to snag a good deal on Furby Booms for the girls, because finances are tight and paying a total of 60 bucks for two sounds a lot better to the Mister’s wallet than shelling out close to $120 for two. You can say “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Jesus is the reason for the season” until the cows come home, you can point out all the non-Christian traditions observed at Christmas time all you want, I’m not here to debate that, that debate is a blog post all on its own. There are a lot of people I know who observe Christmas, regardless of their faith, simply because it’s a time for family. Family is big at Christmastime, even surpassing the “thanks” of Thanksgiving. And family is very precious to me.

My grandparents raised me, and while I spent a lot of time over the years in the houses of my mother and father, and the families that lived within those walls, there is a log house (with all the modern comforts, haha) nestled in a rural area of Lancaster County, PA, and it is within those walls that I grew up. The house that The Mister and I have made our home, while treasured and loved, still pales in comparison to the feeling I get when I step into my grandparents’ home. I know every creak and moan in that house. I know how to slip silently up the stairs without making a sound. My childhood bedroom is still there, with my bookshelves, my desk, and belongings that simply can’t fit here with my big family in our tiny house.

Every time I visit, the aura of the house permeates me, like the hug of a dear old friend. My lowest spirits are instantly lifted. Walking through that house, I am literally able to leave my burdens at the door. Every year, Christmas Eve dinner at my grandmother’s is a wonderful gathering of family that I hardly get to see, family I miss so badly, every day. When I was younger, ‘Christmas’ began on December 1st, when we would put up the Christmas tree. About a week or so before Christmas, my grandmother would start making cookies. Oh, how I love those cookies.

Christmas Eve would find everyone at my grandmother’s house. My brother, cousin, sister, and I would sit at the kids’ table in the kitchen, and when I was 13, I got to move out to the ‘Grownup Table’, though by then the number of people who came dwindled enough that there wasn’t really a need for a separate kids’ table. After everyone had left, my grandparents would let me open one gift, and then it was bedtime.

Christmas Day was always packed for me. I had more than one family, so in the morning I’d open up the rest of my presents, play for an hour or two, then get ready to go to my grandfather’s parent’s house for dinner (though I always thought of it as lunch, because we’d eat at like noon). After that, it was off to my mom’s house, where I’d have yet another dinner to eat, and I would stay there for a couple of days. Before my dad moved two hours away though, it was even more hectic, because he and my mom would alternate who actually got me on Christmas Day, and I’d see the other parent the day after. But it was only like that for four or five years. When he moved, my mom had me Christmas day for a couple days, then I’d go back to my grandparents, where we’d then go out to my dad’s on the Saturday following Christmas, and I’d stay there for a couple of days too. By this time it would be Dec 30-31st, and I’d return home so I could wind down for the couple of days left in my winter break.

I miss those days, believe it or not. Every year since I stopped residing there, I have looked forward to the yearly gathering. For me, it wasn’t about grudges, or who disliked whom. Everything was put on pause. Not for our own sakes, but for love of my grandmother, who poured so much of her own love and effort into putting it all together. As I have grown older, I have lost the sheen of candlelit innocence afforded to me in my youth. Now I see the fractures, the cracks…the tarnish. I have learned that sometimes, love for another person cannot, even for a microsecond, gloss over the cracks and injuries, the offenses and affronts. There were people who were absent this year that I dearly wish I could see sitting at that table again, because I do not see my family often enough. This year, for a plethora of reasons, was amazing in that it yet again gave me that dose of “This is where you come from, Merry…no matter how many homes you make, this is always your first home”, yet bittersweet and sad in that I am seeing realities I never wanted to see.

A reminder of how, though I see them as my parents, my grandparents are not the 40-somethings who took in a scared 5-year-old and showed her stability and unconditional love to counteract what had been an unstable early childhood. One of the gifts I left there with was a worried need to be closer to them, to lend a hand when a hand is needed. My family that lives near them helps them to the best of their abilities, but they have schedules and jobs and to be honest, I really don’t have that. I could go over there at a moment’s notice if needed, if I lived closer. It’s an uneasy homesickness that has settled over me. The family dinner this year did what all my own efforts over the past couple years to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for failed to do: removed my blinders and forced me to acknowledge that no matter how much I wish otherwise, I am not guaranteed any set amount of time with those I love. I know I’ve said it before, but it has harshly hit me. I know it sounds silly, but my grandmother didn’t make cookies this year. I was so upset back in September that I would not be able to enjoy her cookies this year due to my celiac disease…I should have been relieved that the temptation wouldn’t be there, instead, it made me even more sad than if she had made them and I had not been able to eat them. I think the absence of the cookies this year really made it real. Those cookies had been such an ingrained part of the yearly Christmas tradition that not having them at all this year really jolted me emotionally.

Life is too short, even when it is long. Even when we have decades with the ones we love, it is never enough time. Never. My resolution for 2014 is to see more of my grandparents. I don’t care if there are people I do or don’t like…there’s one person that I have not seen in many years, and this person is number one on my list of people that I really never want to see again, and yet if my grandmother said that he was there, I would still put up with him for love of my grandmother. If he had to be there, I would deal with it simply to be able to spend any time I can with my grandparents. I’d rather deal with a few hours of discomfort than to lose them and regret not having spent more time with them. I’d walk barefoot through the lava flows of Hawaii if it guaranteed me more time.

I’d walk through hell. There’s almost nothing (children and the Mister obviously on the list of things I wouldn’t give up) I wouldn’t do or give up to be guaranteed many, many, MANY more years with them, and my resolution this year is to make sure that I make the most of however many years I may be lucky enough to have, so that I will have no regrets in regards to them.

I hope your holiday season was a warm and loving one.

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