A cousin of mine called the other day, in need of someone to vent to. To say she was not having a good day is a bit of an understatement. It seems her in-laws do not place as high of an importance on being together at Christmas as our family does. Even her husband did not fully grasp why she was upset at the situation. Let me explain.
As long as I can remember, we spent Christmas at Mamo's (Mom's mom) house. There is only one Christmas, in my memory (and granted there may have been more, my memory is not always wonderful) that we were not with my mom's family. My Christmas memories involve being with my cousins, our Mamo, and enjoying it. Sure, there were fights and such, but those just make for humorous stories now. We put on performances, there was a lot of laughter, and there was more love in that house that I believe most people receive in a lifetime.
As children, I am sure we did not understand why every year, despite the stress of packing, loading the car, and driving through ice and snow, it was determined we would be together. What I didn't know then is that my Mamo was passing on a strong legacy of family to us. In her own way, she was teaching us how important we each were, in the world and especially to one another. By expecting us to be together, she impressed upon each of us that there are no ties in this world that compare to that of family. Because, no matter what happened in life, we would have our family.
The first Christmas after Mamo died, we were together. It was different, we all missed her, but we were together. Since then, with marriages, births, and moves, we are not able to be together like we were then. Even when Andy and I are with my family, there is a part of my heart that feels an ache because the whole family is not there. I miss the moments when all of us grandkids were together, running through the house when we weren't supposed to, being told to get out of the kitchen while meals were prepared, and making memories that are so precious to me now. My cousin just needed a moment to vent to someone who "got it," who understood why the idea of not being with family on Christmas Day was not acceptable. And she's right, no matter what it took, we were at Mamo's, together.
I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays, let them overtake me unexpectedly, waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: 'Why this is Christmas Day! -- Ray Stannard Baker
This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols. But the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift -- the Christ. -- Frank McKibben
Christmas… that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance -- a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved. -- Augusta E. Rundel