I’ve been thinking about you over the holidays, hoping that all was going well for you, and that your holidays went smoothly, and weren’t difficult, too challenging, or disappointing. I hope they were fun, even better than you hoped. And I hope that Santa was good to you!!
I had a lovely Christmas with my kids, short but very sweet. We came from as far away as 6,000 miles (me, from Paris), to be together. Three of my younger kids flew out from New York, one from Chicago, one from LA, others were already in California. With a family this size, it’s a major feat to get everyone together. And everything went according to plan. I am always particularly grateful when none of us get snowed in somewhere. Two years ago, my plane was the last flight out of Paris in a snow storm, and 2 days later, mine was the last flight out of New York in another snowstorm, before they closed the airport. But I made it home that year too. This time of year, the weather can be dicey, and with 4 of them flying in from the East Coast, I was relieved once everyone got home. And I always cut it very close, as I am with one daughter in New York every year on her birthday on December 18th, and the next day, I fly back to California for a holiday party I give. I haven’t missed it yet, but it could happen. Anyway, I made it home on time this year.
The time we actually spend ALL together has gotten very short: we were only all here for 3 days together this year, which doesn’t leave much margin for error. It doesn’t leave time to catch up if you have a bad day, miss a flight, or have a headache. But I am enormously grateful that they still all come home despite busy lives, demanding jobs, living in other cities, and significant others who are welcome to spend the holidays with us, but often need or want to be somewhere else. So I’m sure that my kids feel pulled, wanting to be home with me and their brothers and sisters, and wanting to be with their partners too. We had a lunch for Santa and little children. Another lunch for the people who work for me, which was a lot of fun. And we always have a family dinner on Christmas Eve, which is the high point of our Christmas together. We go to the same children’s mass first, in the same church where we have gone since they were born. There are lots of little children, and everyone sings Christmas carols, and then we come home for dinner. Our table used to be full with all nine kids, and my children’s father always joined us, even once we were no longer married. He was an important part of our Christmas celebrations. My three oldest married children no longer join us on Christmas Eve, and have dinner at their own homes that night, or with their in laws, so our ranks have been thinned out. Their father, and my late son Nick are no longer with us, and we feel their absence sharply that night. So that night, I have dinner with the 5 younger of my children, and their significant others when they’re around, if they have any. Santa still drops in for a visit, and everyone tells him what they want for Christmas. And at the end of dinner we play The White Elephant game (we play it at my staff Christmas luncheon too. I got a first aid kit this year and love it). It’s a funny game, everyone brings a gift, and we put them in a pile. Each person selects a gift, and you’re allowed to ‘steal’ it twice from someone else if you like it. And the gifts can get pretty outrageous. My youngest son flatly refused to give up his Chewbacca back pack last year (he swore he was going to wear it to work!!). I got a somewhat naughty Santa sweater this year at our family dinner, and managed to hang onto it, and I wore it on Christmas Day!! We had fun playing the game, played Christmas music, and enjoyed being together. And the challenge for me that night is remembering how grateful I am for my children around the table, and not thinking back to those who are no longer with us, and when our Christmas table was loud and boisterous, with many more people around it, John, Nick, and my older children. I have to force my mind to the present, and focus on now, and not remember the happy times when they were all little kids. These holidays together are precious too, and happy, even if everyone is grown up now.
On Christmas morning, we open presents and hang around together in pajamas, we have lunch around the kitchen table, eating left overs from the night before. And at 6pm, EVERYONE comes home for a Christmas night dinner, my older married kids, the younger children, and even some of their in laws, and little children. It’s a busy, loud, boisterous dinner that night, more like the old days. And I totally envied one of my daughters in law, who arrived for dinner beautifully dressed, but her feet hurt so much after countless holiday parties, so she wore her bedroom slippers: the cozy fleece lined kind—-I wanted to rip them right off her feet and put them on. She was the only woman in the room whose feet didn’t hurt, tottering in high heels, after days of celebrations!!! It was a really nice dinner, and everyone had a good time.
Christmas ended quickly this year, with all of them having pulls in their own life now. My youngest married daughter wanted to be at home with us, but her husband didn’t come, so she left at 5am on Christmas morning, to fly back to New York, and have Christmas dinner with him. She managed to keep everyone happy, him, and the family, and sacrificed herself getting up at 4am on Christmas Day and spending the day on the plane. Another daughter left at 6am the day after Christmas, to join her boyfriend and his family on a trip. So it was a beautiful holiday, but the time together was short. They used to spend a week or two at home over Christmas, and we had the luxury of time together. Now, it was all over in three days. But they were three wonderful days. I can’t complain when they make such a huge effort to get home at all, and it was wonderful to be together. As one of my friends reminds me regularly when I think or talk about the past. “That was then, this is now”. And she’s right. And now was wonderful this year, even if the time we spend together is short. They make a huge effort to be here at all.
I got lovely presents from all of them, and tried hard to find things they like. The girls love to get clothes, and with three of them working in fashion, it is REALLY hard to find things that the designers they work for didn’t design, they didn’t design themselves, or haven’t seen for 6 to 9 months before they appeared in the stores. But I think everyone was happy with what they got. I always love the sentimental stuff, a pillow with “Momma” embroidered on it, and a little gold bracelet with “Momma” on it, a wonderful carved book from one son, (a box made of typewriter keys!!), a beautiful bracelet from two daughters who teamed up, and a delicate ring that spells out the word “Mom”, and shoes are always a winner with me, and I got some great ones!! (pink suede flats, red high heels, black flats with sparkles on them, sandals with wooden soles for the summer, ‘camouflage’ flats—-I love shoes and they all know it!!!). And I got a beautiful little portrait of my little blue gray Chihuahua, “Blue”, who is Minnie’s baby sister. (I already have a lovely portrait of Minnie!!)
So we made it through, it was a lovely, warm, loving holiday. We will always remember those who are no longer here, and feel their absence. But the good times buoy our spirits and outweigh the losses…..and as my friend says, That was Then, this is Now. And it was a lovely Christmas this year, they were home for a few days, and I cherish my time with them. I hope your holidays were good too….and they are behind us now. We can look ahead to the New Year. And for the first time ever, I’ve decided not to do anything on New Year’s Eve. I don’t like going out that night, my children are all busy or away. None of the invitations I got felt right, many of my close friends are away. So I’m going spend it at my typewriter, and work right through. It feels like the perfect way to spend New Year’s Eve this year…..writing!!! Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve, and be careful if you’re driving or on the road. And I wish you a fantastic new year, of health, peace, prosperity and happiness. May all your wishes and dreams come true in the new year!! (and mine too!!)
I send you all my love, Danielle