Christmas was always a big deal in our house growing up. Decorations went up early, Mom started baking hundreds of cookies for us and to give to the neighbors, there were tons of church activities (choir practice, caroling, parties), and of course the big day itself. Even after I was grown and out of the house, every year I would drive up to my parents early Christmas morning and join them for gift opening and the big prime rib dinner. The next day or so my sister and her family would drive up and we'd have more gift giving and another big dinner (traditionally Shake and Bake Chicken and Noodles Alfredo). We'd watch movies and play board games and the kids would run around.
After my mother moved to the nursing home when her Alzheimer's progressed, we still kept the tradition, stopping by the home first to see Mom and give her her gifts. When my father died in 1996 the day after Thanksgiving, we did it one more time at the house, mainly for the kids (my brother's this time--my sister's were all grown up). We made the dinner, decorated the house, exchanged the gifts--and knew it was the last time. One year later I was living in San Francisco and my brother and his family were in Alabama. My other brothers still lived at the house--I don't know what they did. My sister stayed home.
These days I celebrate Christmas with my own tiny family (me and Steve) and the larger chosen family of our close friends. It's generally happy, but I'm always haunted (in a good but sad way) by the memories of Christmases past. I miss my parents. I miss my family. I suppose I could move back East and reconnect with my sister and brothers and nephews and nieces and their kids, but it wouldn't be the same. And there would be snow and cold, which I think I'm allergic to now.
I'm very, very grateful for all the blessings in my life--my home, my job, my health, my husband, my friends, my family. I don't take any of them for granted. But I guess the holidays will always be a mixed blessing for me. And that's OK. It is what it is.
A very merry and joyful holiday season to you all. Off to make a tourtiere!