Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Christmas is over. PHEW!

What happened to me this year? Usually I love this holiday. But this year it just seemed like one big hassle.

I guess it was in part due to the fact that this year I didn't have the excitement of "going home." For the past 9 years, I've been living abroad and I have always taken 1 - 3 weeks off at Christmas and "gone home." So, Christmas wasn't really a one day event, but a big event full of family and friends and lots going on.

This year I did "go home" to Western Massachusetts but when I'm just driving an hour and a half from Boston, well it just wasn't the same.

And as I mentioned before, Christmas with just the four of us - my mother, father, brother and I - is a bit sad and well very very low key.

This year Christmas went something like this:
  • Mom doing her annual cooking (that's right, she only cooks a big real meal about one time per year) and complaining and hating every minute of it
  • My brother and I offering to help, mom not letting us and then complaining that we never help
  • My brother and I drinking 
  • My mother yelling at my brother and I for every little thing we did including at one point yelling out "Hey! No laughing while drinking!" I had red wine on the couch and was laughing and although there was no danger of spilling, my mother still felt that the glass of red wine + laughter = bad news for the couch
  • My brother and I making fun of my mother for being so OCD
  • My brother and I drinking
  • Visiting Grandfather in the nursing home - always nice to see him but always sad that he can't join us at our house for Christmas the way he always did 
  • My brother and I doing all our shopping (which really wasn't that much) on Christmas Eve and then staying up until 3 am to wrap presents
  • The annual Christmas Eve eating and song singing with a couple who are my parent's close friends
  • Christmas morning stocking unwrapping and breakfast eating (yummy breakfast casserole)
  • Me spending hours and hours pre-Christmas to make family photo calendars only to find that they are all messed up (thank you Kodak) and being very disappointed)
  • Mom burning my favorite part of Christmas dinner
  • Me sulking about the burned part of Christmas dinner since it's the only time my mother ever cooks - have I mentioned that before? And my mother being mad with me.
  • Mom swearing she will never ever ever cook again (yes, we are now reducing the cooking from 1 time per year to 0 times - although I do think that for the sanity of everyone involved it might be better if my brother and I take over this activity from now on). 
  • The annual Risk game that we never finish - me sulking that I'm loosing. I always loose. I hate loosing. My brother getting mad at me for being a bad sport (I am a very very sore looser).
  • Me making everyone watch The Sound of Music (which is always on Dec 26th) and everyone else in the family pretending to hate it but actually liking it more than they want to admit
  • My brother and I getting stranded another night at my parents due to the inclement weather
  • My brother and I drinking
This year Christmas was mediocre at best. I couldn't help but think back to Christmas' in the past when things felt just a bit more magical and special.

Let me share with you my Ghosts of Christmas Past in no particular order - just a random sampling of memories:
  • Gram and Gramp coming to stay - they always played a very central role in the Christmas festivities and they made Christmas so festive
  • My Grandmother would always dress up in a Christmas sweater, earrings and a Christmas pin (or broach - is that the right word)?
  • When we were younger, my brother and I were so excited for Christmas! We couldn't wait to open all the presents. We would be so excited we couldn't sleep and waking my parents up as soon as they would let us.
  • We always got to open one gift on Christmas Eve. It was usually a really good present. One year it was a Care Bear and another it was these little toy pianos (which I'm sure my parents regretted giving us)
  • Other great Christmas gifts included: the wooden building blocks my grandfather hand-made us (those were our absolute favorite childhood toy); the wooden tool benches my father made us, the tape recorder and the books on tape (I remember my grandmother sitting with me listening to the books)
  • We believed in Santa for a loooong time - that made Christmas fun.
  • We always left milk and cookies for Santa
  • Before we went to bed, my grandfather would always say that he thought he could hear Rudolph up on the roof
  • As we got older, we got excited to give people gifts. We always spent a lot of time shopping for the "perfect" gifts - although we tended to choose quantity over quality. We loved to see LOTS of presents under the tree
  • When we were still young enough to be super excited about Christmas, we were allowed to "tip toe" downstairs after the parents and grandparents were in bed and put our presents under the tree - I still remember how exciting it felt to get that first glimpse of the presents under the tree in the dark room. I would take a long time searching for the perfect place to put my presents. I remember how disappointed I was the first year that my parents brought out the presents before we "went to bed" they said we were too old and stayed up too late for them to wait any longer. I honestly think that until that day (I was 15) I still believed in Santa or at least in the miracle of Christmas. After that it was just never as special.
  • Christmas Eve family jams - my brother and my father are very musical and sometimes I can be convinced to sing. This is one of the few traditions that still lives on.
  • Grammy's ginger snap cookies and Christmas cheese
  • Santa hanging boxes full of candy all over the tree - and sometimes we could even eat the candy before breakfast!
  • Mom's lasagna for Christmas Eve, breakfast casserole on Christmas morning and Ham and home-made macaroni and cheese for Christmas dinner
What are your favorite Christmas memories? How was your Christmas this year? I hope that you all had a great one! And while I'm all bah humbug still, I sincerely wish you a warm and happy holiday with your families and friends.


Average Girl said...

Still sounds kind of a humorous xmas to me Jess! I hate that point in your life when you realize that Christmas will never be the same... Sounds like you had yours this year. I'll let you in on a little secret, when you stop fighting against what xmas has now become, you start to enjoy it again. Took me 10 years to figure that out. This being the first year that I really enjoyed it once again. With that said though, nothing like your 95 year old grandmother thinking that you are the daughter of your sister in law. My poor sister n law and the total shock on her face that she could have a kid as old as me! lol Just remember to a. breath and b. laugh and then it will all be good!

PS, we always opened a special gift on xmas eve too, but it was always from our dog and we always left a carrot for Rudolph, who always left carrot pieces and foot prints in our snow!

Cheers darlin!

Anonymous said...

We always opened one gift on Christmas Eve from our Great Aunt in California...as it was mailed and under the tree prior to Santa coming. We got too old and those gifts stopped coming...that was a sad day. As you get older Christmas definately changes. I watched my young cousins get loads of gifts from my grandmother and I got (I shit you not) a button down denim shirt (which WILL be returned), a hair clip, and a Barnes and Nobles gift card. Suppose it's not about the "things" but sometimes it just is. They got uggs, jewelry, cd's, books...I got a button down demin shirt.

Anyway. I used to love decorating the tree while cookies cooked and cooled and singing carols around the neighborhood with my sisters.

This isn't about me though. I know that this Christmas was different (bad) for you but I'm sure your family was thrilled to have you around and it sounds like your brother and you still had a great time.

Here is hoping that 2011 is a great year for you (and hopefully me too).

Lifebeginsat30ty said...

Yeah, some xmas's are definitely better than others. I remember the first one I didn't go home and stayed with the now Ex in-laws. Totally sucked! We actually went OUT to eat on Christmas! And I caught my FIL looking at my boobs. Fun times.

But I also think a lot of grown up Xmas's are about how we look at them and up to us to make them good. If your mom sucks at cooking, pick it up yourself! Or get the best chefs in there! Had a really great Xmas meal this year and it was from Marks and Spencers, haha. Or you can plan next year to being 'away' somewhere where you know you'll have more fun ;)

Julianna said...

I'm really liking Prep And Landing (Disney) and then of course, "Grandma got run over" movie version. :)

Christmas sure does change as you get older, but no worries my friend, it does come back around. For a while when I lived far from MA, I spent Christmas day with kids in a 24 hour facility. Their parents weren't around (or allowed to see them), and I always showed up with a big bag 'o presents for them. They were so awesome, and made my whole year. :)

Anonymous said...

Love the "no laughing while drinking!" hahaa. My mom makes lasagna for Christmas Eve as well. Think it's a New England thing? She's from Boston as well :)