Please note that if you visited while this was still in draft and accidentally published, it's been updated with more pix and music!
Maybe it's because I've been doing so much family history research. Maybe it's because my dad died in December and I've been thinking of him. Maybe it's because I've felt a little more fragile and vulnerable than usual lately. Maybe it's just because it's Christmas. (Cue the Music)
But I've been thinking of many Christmases from the past. Mostly good ones. And those ghosts of Christmas past.
I don't remember the photo below being taken. I was (obviously) too young! But this was how I spent a lot of Christmas days in my childhood -- with my grandparents, their siblings and my dad's cousins. They all look like a barrel of laughs, don't they? It didn't get better as I got older, either. As everyone got older!
(Christmas Eve with my mom's family full of cousins my age was much more fun!)
I think of the joy of being a little kid and that first Christmas. I think I was about a year and a half in this photo. I wish I still had that little piano. But I still have chubby legs, curly hair and that double chin! Some things never change.
I remember my sweet collie, Major, the most patient dog in the world.
And, I remember the magic of our cardboard nativity scene. I found one like it at an estate sale once -- I still have to put it up. It's harder to find a spot than it used to be!
There were a few Christmases spent at the lake. (Not my favorite. As much as I love the lake, it smiles most at me during the summer!) But it sure was pretty. And look carefully -- those are my turkey plates on the sideboard and that Santa is on my tree today! I just noticed that!
Let's do the time warp and flash forward a few years! There were the Christmases with the cousins, my aunts and uncles. We'd have a contest as to who could create the most original wrapping for a gift. Yes, this was once the "container" for a pair of earrings for my mom from Dad. He won more than once!
And we'd get all dressed up!
Mom just loved this skirt. I still have it. I don't think it would fit, but I should give it a try!
And then, that last Christmas before the Moms (my mom and her younger sister, Grace) died. No family Christmas that year.
Just the three of us for the last time.
The year after was a tough one. But the Cleveland cousins came to Michigan, like usual, and we did our best. Champagne at midnight. Carols at the piano. And I suspect there were more than a few tears in the pillows.
We took all the same family photos. Almost. But there was no photo of the Moms. Just the menfolk.
We did our best. Because it was Christmas.
Flash forward to Christmases with just Dad and me, after travel became more complicated with expanding families. We'd invite friends to fill out the dinner table, do Christmas Eve church, quiet Christmas morning. As I look at the photo below, I recognize so many ornaments now on my tree --and I'm also wondering whatever happened to a few of them.
And then he was gone, too. That was the year my friend Bonnie invited those of us closest to my dad over for dinner. Yet another tough year.
It would be a few years before my Christmas celebrations would feature a new cast of characters, but they were good ones.
And when I say characters, I do mean, "Characters." Please note that in the photo below, Kevin really did have teeth. He just liked blacking them out with that awful Blackjack gum!
With them came a new family member -- Miss Molly -- and new traditions, like decorating Santa's cookies on Christmas Eve. (And yes, we still do.)
Dad never knew the Marmelade Gypsy, namesake of this blog, either. And he's yet another of the ghosts of Christmas past and I miss him every day.
This year, this little boy will walk into the house with a new little boy, a new member of the family who hasn't yet known his first Christmas, and (like me in that photo at the top of this post) won't remember in the years to come.
But we'll remember. Just as I wrap my heart around all my ghosts of Christmas past.
Oh, I wish they could all be here for Christmas present.
And maybe, just maybe, they are.
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