Saturday, December 29, 2007

Family Ties

We spend Christmas Eve with my siblings and my cousins. Including the youngest generation, there are about 30-35 people for dinner. We don't use paper plates. Instead, the fine china, the good silver, and the crystal wine glasses are brought out. For most of us, and for our children, this is about the only time we see them!

My china was originally my grandmother's--the grandmother I share with my cousins. Several years ago now, DS#1 made the connection: he was holding a plate that his great-grandmother had held, a great-grandmother that died when his grandmother was a newborn. The great-grandmother who was also a redhead.

"Wow!" he whispered, in awe.

This year, my uncle, my mother's brother, was unable to join us. He's suffering from Alzheimer's and lives in secure assisted living. He becomes agitated when he's out too late, when there's a crowd, when there's a chaos and confusion. My cousins decided to leave him at his residence, although one of them would bring them to the celebration on Christmas Day, when it would be just his girls.

The absence of her brother--her only sibling--and her impending birthday got to my mother. During dinner she proposed a toast to the family. She wants us to continue to get together for Christmas Eve (and the Fourth of July) even when she's no longer around.

Fortunately, we all like each other and enjoy each other's company. Even better, our children seem to enjoy each other as well.

It's not that we always agree or never have fought (hey, we shared bedrooms as children!). It's not that we haven't driven each other crazy with our quirks, our actions, our beliefs. But we're family and some how that triumphs all else.

And we've seen what happens when family members hold a grudge. They miss out.

Christmas Day is dinner at Mom's with "just us." Including spouses, children, and the occasional family friend, that's "only" about 20. We're much more casual than on Christmas Eve. At Thanksgiving we draw names; the siblings and spouses in one pool, all the grandkids (known as "The Cousins Draw") in the other. At Mom's we exchange those gifts as well as the gifts from and to Mom. We open in order, starting with the oldest. We have to get the little kids when it's their turn. Once they've opened a package, they run off to play until their next turn.

After Christmas gifts, we celebrate Mom's birthday. Each year my cousins make her a birthday cake which she doesn't cut until after Christmas presents. We light a candle and sing and while we eat cake, Mom opens her birthday presents, even though her actual birthday isn't until the 26th. None of us ever remember her waiting.

On Dec. 26, my goal is to stay in my pj's all day. I try not to leave the house for any reason. The kids are too busy playing with their toys to notice, although they will watch a movie or two with Hubs and me.

And, yes, they still get toys. There's nothing like a Wii to bring the family closer together!