I've been thinking a lot about Christmases past this year, as it will be a very one-on-one Christmas for us. Just Rick and me. I could be sad about this (OK, let's be honest -- I AM sad about it) but it's also a good time to look at the richness of Christmases past and be grateful for so many wonderful years.
The people who make Christmas great -- like Mom and Dad.
Mom knew how to make Christmas so special. I still have most of our old family ornaments and so many holiday things she passed along to me -- not the least of which was an unabashed joy in celebrating this bright, happy holiday. Even on her last Christmas, she was filled with smiles!
Dad, meanwhile, always knew how to have fun. Those Christmases after she died weren't always easy ones, but they were fun.
We spent many family Christmases with the Cleveland cousins. We would wrap anything so the tree was filled with what appeared to be an abundance of gifts by the time they arrived in Lansing. (Of course, if it was a pair of socks, it was in two boxes. We had energy then.)
We had an annual gift decorating contest, too, which I've written about here. It was always fun to see who would have the most creative wrapping! Some of the gifts were pretty creative, too. When cousin David was still in his dating mode, his sister gave him a kit to be prepared for anyone! (Fortunately, Bonnie won out!)
There were times we tried too hard. Not long ago I found an audio cassette of one of the first Christmases without the moms. It's more than a little off the wall, as we went for the merry. But inside I think all of us were more than a little broken.
Christmas with friends was a tradition, from the college days...
....to Cork Poppers. I'll miss our holiday wine swaps!
I've already missed one holiday tradition this year, the annual greens market with my friend Jan.
Mark and Jan -- and Rick and I -- do an annual holiday exchange based on a Christmas song. We target our gifts to lyrics in the song and we always end up with something fun! I don't know if we'll be able to do this in 2020. It might depend on the weather!
Another group of friends usually gathers together for holiday cheer. This year, we're scheduled to connect on Zoom.
Sometimes Christmas Eve isn't what you'd expect -- and that's a good thing. One of my favorites was a last minute invitation to enjoy Christmas Eve with friends of Rick's (and mine, too, through him.) In addition to a fabulous Chinese dinner, we spent the evening making clay ornaments. Mine holds a proud place on my tree. Greg's took ages, and was gorgeous.
A lot changed when Rick came into my life, bringing Greg and Kevin for the ride. My first Christmas with them I was awakened at 5 a.m. by Kevin hurling in bathroom. You know you must really like a guy when you clean up his child's throw-up in the bathroom at 5 a.m.
When they were kids we started our Christmas Eve cookie making tradition. Holidays became brighter still when Molly entered the scene!
We continued the tradition last year, a little differently. First of all, it wasn't "official" Christmas Eve; second, the parents were shopping and Rick and I were hanging with the boys. They were pretty good helpers! (One helped, one taste tested!)
This year will be different. We won't be having friends for dinner or Rick's trio playing after.
We'll miss scenes like this on "Christmas Morning."
But we'll still find time for quiet moments.
And relish in our togetherness, appreciating how we have been there for each other every minute of this wild and crazy year.
But even if the lights are not attached to the headband of a toddler, even if everything is a little topsy turvy and uncertain, I know we will find the joy in this season and perhaps appreciate it even more this year than all the years before, because we've all seen what time and illness can do to our lives, how it makes every new day uncertain and therefore one to be cherished.
I believe that.
I really do.