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It truly is better to give than to receive

Well, I got my holiday spirit and, as I should have know, the secret is in the people. I just hadn’t been able to feel that happy, excited feeling that I used to feel before Christmas, and I really missed it. Granted, it’s an easy feeling to have when you have small children. Their excitement and their beautiful hopeful faces really exemplify what Christmas is supposed to be about — not toys, but hope and anticipation. But I certainly wasn’t feeling it.

I had some reasons. For my entire life, the whole extended family on my mother’s side has always gotten together. When I was a child, it was frequent; beach trips, birthdays, every holiday including 4th of July and Memorial Day, and of course Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and Thanksgiving. Over the years these have dwindled down, some going away completely and others being “de-populated” for various reasons. Christmas at my house and Easter at my cousin’s have remained fairly intact. For me, hosting Christmas dinner meant somewhere between 20 and 25 people sitting down at three large tables placed end to end. We even had a “critical mass” number of about 22, after which a separate “kid’s table” had to be set up. It was a lot of work, but I loved it.

This is the year of change for our family. My cousins’ children are grown now, and all live out of the immediate area. Meanwhile, my remaining aunt and uncle have gotten older and more infirm. The bottom line started to shape up after Thanksgiving. One cousin would be going to his daughter’s house because she wanted to start hosting her own dinner and not be driving 2 hours with her 4 year old daughter; very understandable. Another cousin and his wife would be going up north, because that’s where both their children, one now married, are living. And my elderly aunt wasn’t sure that she and my uncle would be able to manage coming out, even though their daughter and her husband would be coming down to stay. Oh, and did I mention that my older son, the police officer, had to work on Christmas up north and wouldn’t be home until the next day? Bah, humbug!

My husband, my younger son, and I went to Mass on Christmas Eve, but I still wasn’t feeling it, so I had pretty much given up hope. Then Christmas morning came. The gift we gave our younger son surprised him, and I saw that happy “little boy” look on his young man face, which made my day, literally. I cooked dinner for our 13 people, which did include my aunt and uncle, and as everyone started to arrive, it felt so wonderful to be able to provide this gift of gathering to everyone. There wasn’t the tumult of exchanging a whirlwind of gifts, because we had finally decided to stop that. With fewer people there was more conversation with each one, and my niece played beautiful Christmas carols on the piano. The Christmas spirit was definitely in our house.

And it stayed there, too, and remains so far. My older son arrived, we visited the relatives who hadn’t seen him in so long because of police academy training and work schedules. Then we had a series of family dinners with just us, including our own gift exchange, and once again, we surprised a son with his gift! I don’t think we’ll pull that off too many more times, but it was great fun, and I’m still smiling over both of them. They’ve both gone home now, one up north to work and one down south to school. The house is quiet, getting cleaned up, and I finally have time to write. It’s been a wonderful Christmas! I sincerely hope your holiday was wonderful too.

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