Friday, December 22, 2006

A Family Holiday [CCR]

Christmas automatically triggers memories of families and hopefully your memories glow brightly to cheer up our short winter nights. I often recall the many family gatherings around the glittering Christmas trees and the joy of us children excited over the packages under the tree. Looking back I don’t think the contents of the package mattered. Being included in family mattered most. Each generation initiates traditions merged from past traditions. It is one of the many mystical dynamics of marriage.

At the Smith house we carried a tradition seen in many families. The cousins drew names, mostly with the help of our parents, several weeks before Christmas. I don’t think we really knew who had our name until we gathered with the packages piled under the tree. We gleefully scrutinized every wrapped surprise to the extent allowed by our parents. Who had time for dinner? We were ready to peel the wrappings away and see what treasure lay inside.

At my eighth Christmas I remember the grandchildren all got cameras in the shape of Mickey Mouse. The nose was the lens and one ear was the trigger. It was a simple device without all the modern frills, but it was luxurious for us. I clearly remember Mrs. Lyle, my third grade teacher, taking us Easter Egg hunting the next spring and me carrying Mickey along for pictures. Sadly I don’t remember what happened to my Mickey. But I have a picture of my cousin Pam and I sitting on the couch with our cameras. At our recent Thanksgiving gathering in Memphis Pam told me she still had her camera.

My cousin Sherry and I had a special bond that lasted through the years. Every Christmas or birthday, whether it was hers or mine, we often got the same present. I remember the plastic fire trucks that provided hours of entertainment before bedtime. I stayed at Grandmother’s house that night so we had time to check out our new trucks. We were very young and the details escape me with exception to the fateful morning after. In our excitement the fire trucks were neglectfully parked on the front porch. Granddaddy’s dog made sure our new shiny trucks wouldn’t bring any harm to the house and thus our fire fighting adventures lasted less than a day.

Today our Smith family traditions are somewhat reminiscent of those days at Granddaddy’s house. We still gather as a family each year at one of our homes or other locations. The get-together has moved back to Thanksgiving as each of my aunt and uncles are now grandparents with their own traditional celebrations. Fellowship and honoring those we miss are still significant. We exchange ornaments for our Christmas trees to feed our memories each holiday season. This year Uncle Travis wore Granddaddy’s special Christmas sweater to facilitate the loving atmosphere that once smothered that old green house each year.

It is my wish that you have a most joyous holiday season no matter how you celebrate the many festivities. Menorahs will be lit. Trees will twinkle. Fireworks will fill the sky. But most importantly families will gather, recreate the bonds that make possible the trek into the new year, and celebrate the foundations of our unique traditions.