Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Memory of Christmases Past

This time of year can be hard for a lot of people, because it brings back memories from past holidays spent with loved ones who have since died, relationships that are no longer intact, and perhaps even places that now cease to exist.

My Christmases growing up were wonderful. Some of the best memories I have are those where my cousins, my brother and I are all sitting impatiently on the stairs at my grandparents' house on Christmas morning, waiting for the "go-ahead" from our parents to rush into the living room and examine the loot Santa Clause had delivered the night before. (Side note: I've discovered in years past that Santa didn't actually come to our house until Christmas morning, hence the adults making the kids wait on the staircase.)

There were always parties in our family. Each year we'd attend the annual Christmas Eve festivities at my great aunt's house in Durham or at my grandmother's neighbor's house. There were a few instances where my grandmother hosted the party herself -- and there are home videos that show all of us dancing merrily, children waddling through the living room, couples showing off their new engagement rings, the older generation sitting off to the side and taking it all in.

Most of all, I think of my grandfather. He would be perched in his blue arm chair with a cigarette in hand (soft pack Dorals), a drink in the other (usually bourbon on the rocks), and his loyal golden retriever sitting quietly at his side. He preferred a quieter atmosphere 364 days out of the year, but he loved being immersed in his family during the holidays. Come next Saturday, he will have been gone for 16 years.

It was these times that I cherish and miss the most. More than anything, I miss being that blissfully innocent child who was ignorant to the ongoing feud between my mother's two brothers, the constant competition between my mother and her sister, and the hatred my mother and her siblings (and even my grandfather) felt towards my grandmother. I think that's why the holidays often get me so choked up -- I miss those days more than anything. What I wouldn't give to be able to relive even one of those Christmas parties where the room was filled with laughter and joy (at least from my perception) and my grandfather was still alive.

In 2012, for the first time in my life (and my mother's life), we didn't spend Christmas at my grandmother's house. My mom decided it was time to spend the holidays at her own house so that she wouldn't have to deal with the added stress of being around her mother. Despite that, my brother and I drive up to see our grandmother every Christmas morning after our presents have been opened. My parents don't understand why we bother doing this (my grandmother is a notoriously "mean" woman), but my brother and I do. We're chasing the memory of the tradition we loved so dearly growing up.

These days, we have a different tradition. Every year, on December 23rd, my parents throw the family Christmas party at our house. Aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, and close friends are all in attendance. I do love this tradition so much -- we pick from the buffet my mother sets up in her dining room, drink from the makeshift bar in the kitchen, sing Christmas carols while my mom's cousin plays the piano, smoke cigarettes on the back porch (my aunt and I do, at least) and watch as my mother and her siblings and cousins compete to remember the toasts of generations past. It's a great way to celebrate Christmas, and I do love spending time with my extended family.

However, it's not quite the same. But then again, I guess nothing ever is. Traditions fade, family members pass away, and life gets complicated. There's no going back, but there's always the memory of Christmases past.

That's just the thing about the holidays, I guess. It reminds us that life is short, and we must honor the memories of the past and look forward to creating new ones in the future.

1 comment:

  1. So true, life really is short. It's hard (really hard) to grow up have change, it's something I really struggle with.