I am sitting in my cosy little house, listening to Christmas music through the Roku. Things sure have changed since I was a kid...even since my kids were born in the last 18 years.
First of all, Roku? It sounds like a character in Pokemon; something else that did not exist when I was a kid. Since I fired up the desktop, I have heard Tony Bennett, The Beach Boys, Idina Menzel and George Michael and I have not had to load my cd player and set it on "shuffle" (remember how cool that was?!?). All I had to do was pick a Christmas station through my TV.
Christmases when I was a kid have all become a tinsel-covered blur in my memory. I remember fat, crazy looking trees at my maternal grandparents house (in sharp contrast to the perfectly shaped fake tree in my other grandparents home), bowls of nuts that you had to crack yourself and bodies; lots and lots of sweaty kids and overheated adults. The oven and stove going all day long makes for an unpleasantly humid living room, especially when packed with dozens of relatives.
And I totally loved it!
Christmas was a day of many big meals and many stops. Godawfully (for my parents) early present opening and Santa gift discovering (Santa did not wrap his presents in my childhood home and he still doesn't in my adult home. That Santa wrapped other kid's gifts started nagging at my already suspicious mind somewhere around the age of six), brunch at my aunt's, super-early dinner (that we were always late for) at my great-aunt's, then, finally stuffed and crabby (if you were a parent) and excited (if you were me), we arrived at my maternal grandparents house. It's not that the rest of the day wasn't fun; it's just that their house was the MOST fun. It's where all my cousins and my grandmother's seventeen desserts were waiting for us. I'm not kidding when I say seventeen. There were years that I counted and if there were less than ten, my grandmother would be fretting that we might run out.
Adding to the heat and the mayhem, my grandfather would be blinding us all with his movie camera. Those movies would get broken out on Easter, Thanksgiving, or a later Christmas when the merriment had died down. I have so many memories of lying on the floor with my chin propped on my hands, surrounded by nearly everyone I loved, laughing at those old movies.
So much stayed the same and so much changed as I got older. My teen-aged self did not appreciate the Christmas Eve service that took me away from my (totally super-fun) boyfriend's family party. I did NOT want to get up early to see what Santa brought for my younger sister and brother. All I wanted was a leather jacket, to sleep late and some freedom.
So many pictures of me smirking or rolling my eyes during these years.
When I moved away at twenty, I was not quite prepared for spending holidays without my relatives. That first Thanksgiving was pretty sad. My (different) boyfriend's family was wonderful and welcoming but their traditions were so different from the ones I had grown up with. I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted any kind of taste of home, I would have to learn how to make it myself and then, it would never, ever taste how I remembered it.
That year, I did go home for Christmas, but things had already changed in my absence. I had only been gone for six or seven months, but I had a new cousin, my room was no longer mine and it was clear that being an adult at Christmas was not as fun as being a kid. By the time New Year's day 1991 came around, I was more than ready to get back to L.A.
Those years were some of the best of my life so far, but the time between Thanksgiving and New Years was always very trying. My new boyfriend (now husband! :) ) and our friends became each other's family. We made the best of things, probably partied a little too much and complained about the lack of holiday spirit that seemed to permeate L.A.
Now, we have our own family and for many years, Christmas has been fun again. There is nothing like seeing your little ones light up when they see what Santa has left. It is warm and wonderful and maybe not as chaotic and busy as the holidays of my youth, but it is still wonderful because we are together. We have our own traditions. I have learned that the old cliche "Home is where the heart is" is true. My heart is here with my family and it is also with my extended family and all the friends that made my holidays of the past memorable. Being away from them has its moments of sadness, but more, it fills me with joy that I have so much to be thankful for and so many people to miss. It is a luxury to have had them in my life.
Now, I have my own teenagers who roll their eyes and sleep too late and occasionally, make it harder to be filled with Christmas cheer; but they also surprise me with their generosity and warmth towards each other and us. Santa's bounty is somehow anti-climactic at 11 am, but it is no less appreciated. The pressure of staying up until 2 am and getting up before prying little eyes is off. We make each other laugh and they are old enough to reminisce with us. Things have changed again and I am embracing it; living in the moment, cherishing this time.
So, to my family and friends near and far: Much love today. I will be thinking of you while embracing my dear husband and big boys.