Holiday season is here, a holiday each for many religions. Even one for African-Americans (Is there a more current term?). As the days approach, I find myself with mixed feelings. Gone are the days when our immediate family gathered around the living room Christmas tree. We kids would open our presents, and hold them up for Mom and Dad to see. That ‘Santa Claus’ or ‘Sandy Paws’ (Yep, we had pets) were on the tag didn’t matter. There were always socks, underwear, and pajamas. The aunts gave the family National Geographic subscriptions. And my uncle even mailed us a cocoanut from Hawaii! I sarted my fantasy reading with “The Hobbit” from Grammy (So you can blame her for getting me hooked!).
When we kids were done, it was the parents’ turn. Dad could never remember what he bought Mom, and was always surprised when he found out. For us kids, what do you get people who are scary and secretive, like parents? Once, they told us. Dad said he wanted a new car, so we bought him a toy model (Yes, he had to put it together, and, no, I don’t know if he ever did). Mom? All she wanted was peace and quiet. With four kids? She got a can of peas and some earmuff. That was the first and only time they told us.
Why mixed feelings? When you’re a kid, you think it’ll always be that way, but it won’t. You get older, get married, have kids, and move away. Or, if you’re me, no marriage or kids, just not-always-gentle hints that it’s time to be on your own. Nothing remains the same. None of us live in that house anymore. Mom and my sisters all live in Florida, a most unChristmasy state. They have new traditions, with friends, family, kids, grandkids, and greatgrandkids. My brother? He’s still here in Massachusetts, but with his own family, friends, and traditions.
Me? I have a few secular ornaments I hang up, and there are cards to write and put out. A menorah gets set up from the start of the holidays until just after New Year’s. I have a couple of presents from, sister Cathy, sitting in front of the menorah. I will buy something for my beautiful four-legged roommate (She needs a new bed). I will work Christmas, but expect to be with friends the day after. That is my holiday tradition, to get together with them, maybe do a movie and a meal, what we usually do when we can get together, holiday or no.
Quite different from the simpler days of childhood, which I miss. I miss my home on Boisvert Road in Tewksbury, the neighborhood, the baseball field, the woods with swamp, blueberry bushes, and Old Joe’s cabin, Honey’s Path around Round Pond (a place that looks like it’s all private property now), the family around the tree, the cats napping under the tree or on the parents’ bed, the dog trying not to get in the way but also not be ignored, Dad’s lasagna, the turkey for dinner (Meaning Mom’s super-delicious turkey soup later on, something else I miss!), and the visiting of relatives.
Now? Strangers live in that house, in a neighborhood where the fiels, woods, and swamp are now filled with houses, the family is all scattered, and the relatives, all, like us, older, are rarely seen by us.
I honor the new traditions, but I hold onto these memories of the past because they made me what I am, and I don’t think that’s all that bad. God, I miss that house.