Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Past...

Grandpa Farwell with Mike... make my day

Merry Christmas!

While preparing for our holiday decor and traditions this year, I began musing about the traditions that our children missed from my own childhood. So many things are different for a very good reason: we moved to the west coast, and away from our parents and family when our children were quite small. We could not continue many of those seasonal traditions: I wish we could have our parents nearby to share Christmas with.

Daddy overseeing the gifting the month before
I was hospitalized in January. Mike, Rose (unseen),
Vicki, Billy and me (I was puffy from Nephritis)
When my siblings and I were young, we always had grandparents with us early in the morning to see us open our gifts. Usually this was my dad's parents, and my mom's parents went to her sister's home. Both of my parents were one of two children, so that made things simple. Dad's sister was in our area for a few years, then relocated to the west coast.

After opening the anticipated gifts, we had brunch and played with toys or tried on clothing and visited with the grandparents that were with us. By lunchtime we began to prepare for our trip to the other grandparent's home, while Grandpa and Grandma Farwell headed over to her parent's home to visit.

At Grandma Chatel's home, with our aunt (Betty) Jean's family, we had a big dinner mid-afternoon and opened more gifts and stockings. Ham, scalloped potatoes, and Hungarian Kiflie cookies were ALWAYS on the menu! When we teens were older and played instruments, we performed a small concert for our family. We played table games in the basement rec room (usually Crazy 8's) and other games. After dinner, opening gifts and clean-up, we headed over to spend some time with my dad's sister, Aunt Zona, and her family, when they still lived in Michigan. We usually stayed there until way past our bedtime playing with our cousins and their gifts.

The band's all here: Gail (Flute), Barb
(Clarinet), Mike (Sax) with Vicki and Rose
One memorable Christmas when I was ten, our family moved  to Harvey, IL in October to be near Dad's job. He had been living there a few years and driving home every few weeks to see us. His trips were getting more rare, so we moved there and rented a home. We had left all of our Christmas decor in our house in Michigan.

That year my mom's parents drove to visit us. That is the only time I recall them spending Christmas morning at our house. That was a very lean Christmas, and we had not planned to get a tree. My sister, Vicki, however, managed to drag home a tree from her 7th grade classroom... from a half mile away. After propping the big tree in a rock filled bucket, we decorated it with our homemade ornaments. It was "SIMPLY" beautiful with garlands of popcorn, construction paper chains and snowflake cutouts. Tickled to find our Christmas "surprise" of a few strings of lights on Christmas morning... we had the most wonderful tree of all!

Our last Christmas in Michigan with our children was celebrated in our little house on Floral Street in Livonia MI. (The living room was about 12x12 and the kitchen only about 10x11.) My two sisters spent the night before, along with Vicki's daughter, Audry. Early in the morning my Daddy came over with my step-sister, Jan, and her mama, Shirley. My mom came also, with my brother, Bill. (My brother, Mike, had passed away that fall). There were so many gifts under the tree for all five of my parent's grandchildren!

That was an exciting day, crawling over each other and discovering treasures under discarded wrapping paper! The newborn, Ruth, was passed between aunts and grandmas, between feedings. They all spent the day with us, had all the meals in our little house, including a ham dinner from our little stove. This was the last Christmas we ever spent with my parents, because of the long distance after we relocated to Washington. I am so glad we have that memory on video.

As our four children married and added more family members and in-laws, it became increasingly difficult to get together with all of our girls, with times that would not conflict with their in-law's events.

Our family with our daughters began to just gather a few hours in the morning, after their family time at their house, and they would stay through a big lunch before they went on to their spouse's family gatherings and dinners. Those who had no other plans would stay as long as they wished.

As the years passed, the lunch or brunch began to simplify to finger food, sandwiches, cheese and veggie trays, served with all the desserts that came from their homes. Stockings from grandparents were given, and small gifts for everyone. As the family GREW, approaching 20 grandchildren, the stockings became nearly impossible to stuff financially. Eventually, we had to limit the gifts to one per family and hope we had something for the littlest children to play with. The meal together became more difficult over time, between travel and family schedule conflicts.

This year we left the schedule and planning up to the kids. We were curious how many would come visit if we left our plans "open", if they had the choice to not visit our house. I posted a question on Facebook to see if there was any interest in coming to our house this year, and what ideas they had.

All in all, Christmas is about the birth of our Savior, and there is nothing like sharing special time with family to make your circle complete... all the generations touching hearts and hands together with memories for a lifetime.

It looks like our house will be quiet for most of Christmas day. We will have dinner at Charity's home and spend a quiet morning alone, and perhaps have Alice and her children come in the evening for a movie night. The house is open for visits, and snacks are available. We will get the gang all together on Saturday, instead. Merry Christmas!