It is rare when we can coordinate the time and distance between a dozen careers, three states and two countries to share a few moments as family. Christmas happens whenever we can get together.
When I first moved to Europe, I missed being home for the holidays and before my baby’s first birthday, I bundled her in my arms and flew back from Paris. That baby, now a doctor in St. Paul, will drive to Chicago with her “little” brother. My folks will pop in from Sterling. The car wheels will crunch on an icy driveway when my brother’s family arrives from Cleveland and my sister’s brood pulls in from Minneapolis. After traveling 4,000 miles we’ll reunite at the midway point, my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Yorkville, for an old fashioned Midwestern Christmas.
The house will be filled with the imperfect details that created the perfect memories of our happy childhood. Tabletops will be buried under a disarray of cards from friends and loved ones. Tupperware will overflow with cut out cookies of reindeer, candles and Santas that are eaten before even frosted. The walls will be covered with handmade gifts of the heart and the tree adorned with a collection of decorations commemorating each new birth in the family.
We’ll spend our holiday sprawled around the tree where so many memories hang and chatter simultaneously trying to catch up on a year of our lives. Or we’ll stare silently into the colored lights, content just to be side by side. Someone will start our favorite game, “Remember whens.”
“Remember how each year we vowed to be on time for the candlelight service,” Mom said, “and every year we arrived after the organ music started and had to sit in the front pew.”
“I can still hear the whole congregation whispering, here come the McKinzie’s, late as usual,” groans my middle sister, who was always on time.
“Remember when you got in trouble for playing with the candle wax,” I kidded my brother.
We didn’t always pay attention in church, but we got the message. Love one another. When we came home the house would ring with giggles and whispers and papers rattling behind closed doors. The walls would echo with our off key voices as we tried to sing Silent Night in harmony while my brother pounded the piano. Later our children would provide entertainment by putting on magic shows, Christmas plays and holiday concerts.
During the holidays, our house overflowed with red, green and gold packages. As though every act of kindness were being reimbursed. When we were kids, we’d each get one toy multiplied by four, because we learned early on to share. Every year, my sister says, “Next year, we’ll cut back,” yet on July 4th, she’ll start Christmas shopping for the perfect gifts to spoil her nieces, nephews and grand-kids. We’ll protest her extravagance and she always assures us, “Don’t worry it was on sale!”
Yet we all know the real gift is being together all ages and appreciating one another at each stage of life.
The Christmas memories are so vivid, that anytime, anywhere, we can close our eyes and smell pine needles and baking gingerbread and see the barren fields dusted with light snow and hear the pa rum pa pa pum of the Little Drummer Boy beat that filled our childhood dreams. No matter where we are or how great our troubles we feel the peace.
Once each year, in a testimony of our love, we make a pilgrimage across thousands of miles just for a few precious moments of magic that being together at the holidays brings. The love that gave us the strength to leave the nest kept bringing us home for Christmas to rejoice in the gift of family.
Wonderful sentiment to family holiday get togethers-from across the miles and around the street, family makes it all possible!
Happy Holidays, Pat!
Happy Holidays back at ya, dear Clara! Family rocks, as do friends!
How wonderful that you all get together to celebrate the holidays, reminisce, open presents, and make new memories. Safe travels to you and yours, Pat, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season!
There is no place like home for the holidays and even after all these year, I remain a Midwesterner at heart. Happy Holidays Debbie!
My best wishes to the McKinzie Family for a Happy, Healthy Holiday Celebration!!
Happy Holidays to the entire Carlson clan! Hope you can keep the boys out of mischief. teehee
I hope that all of you have a most blessed time together. Please give my warmest regards to all of your family and especially my dear friend Sue. XX
Thanks Laurel. Sue hosted our family Christmas, so you know it was it special. Happy Holidays to your family.
As usual, you have expressed my thoughts and feelings so perfectly! My boys have traveled home from Denver and Durham for a few days, and tomorrow we make the 12 hour drive to Michigan for what will likely be our last Christmas with Grandpa Sam. After a scant 7 days with an aunt, uncle, and grandparents spent exactly as you described, we will disperse again—me to Tennessee, Stephen back to Denver, and Chris to Geneva.
Thanks for focusing me of the joys awaiting me this Christmas, and giving me strength to face the goodbyes.
Merry Christmas to you and all of your family, Pat!
Oh Nan, The McKinzie clan is wrapping all the Bedrosians in warm hugs as you rejoice in the precious gift of family and savor the bittersweet moments with Grandpa Sam. May the strength of those bonds and the memories shared over the years help sustain you.
So touching. Family is really what it’s all about…however you define family. I wish you and yours the very best, Pat. Merry Christmas.
Yes Lynne how true…family comes in all shapes, sizes, and blends and they are all valuable. Happy Holidays!
Beautiful, Pat. I can feel the warmth and love and it taps me into my own family memories. Enjoy every precious moment! Blessings and Hugs, Kathy
Kathy, I know there is a lot of joy being spread around your tree and a fair amount of good fun chaos too with all your grandsons. Enjoy.Best wishes to you and yours.
As a classmate of yours, I have to say I have always enjoyed reading your articles. It is fun to learn about your life overseas and your family life here. Fun to “watch” your children grow up through your stories. So happy all the family is able to come together each year at this time. I sure wish you still wrote for the Gazette – my mom and I would always call each other and talk about your articles. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2013 to you and all of your extended families! Robbin Cushman Clifton SHS Class of 1975
Oh Robbin, thanks for writing…it was so good to hear from you after all these years. Glad you enjoy following my ol’ “column” through my blog. Happy Holidays to you and yours. When is our next class reunion?
Dear Pat and clan,
I am so happy you are able to be together in Chicagoland to celebrate Christmas around the tree.
As the “children” grow, they may be sharing new holiday traditions with new loved ones and their families. New traditions that they will forge, combining the memories they each hold dear. Take lots of pictures. I also have fond memories with you during our college years. Good friendships that endure the years and miles. You are often in my thoughts and I wonder at your resilience. Much love to you and ALL of yours. They are dear to me as well. A warmer, welcoming family there never was! love, Amy
Amy, thanks so much for your reflections and well wishes. Long ago, you taught me to appreciate the little things in life and seize the moment with your joie de vivre! We must plan an ISU roomie reunion to recapture the memories and renew the bonds of friendship. Happy Holidays and love to you and yours.
Lovely, happy memories that bring the spirit of family alive. Thank you for sharing. So much of Christmas is being with family that we love – and those not with us anymore, but who still live in our hearts. Merry Christmas, Pat.
Yes, Susan, Christmas is also a time to slow down and reflect on those no longer with us and the gifts they brought to our lives over the years. Happy Holidays and thanks so much for stopping by.
Beautiful post! It was so hard to be away from my family this Christmas. I even have to admit, that I’m glad it is all over. But, I do have such special memories of holidays together and there will be more in the future. Happy New Year, Pat!!!! I can’t wait to see what the new year has in store for us.
Happy New Year to you, too, Selena! Hope the year brings you happiness and good health and lots of great places to go to.
/really liked your Happy Holidays, typical of the McKinzie family
Thanks Maxine, Happy New Year to you and Don!