Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Please do not assume I am a whirling dervish, people. I am not. The sanding and the cutting were short lived things. I do a bit as I pass and then a bit more later. Hah. Pacing. I sit, and I stand and a walk a little, and that is how things go here. I do bits of the meal preparation through the day.

It is how I get things done now that life is somewhat different. And the movement keeps you warm too! Added bonus.

Good morning.

I was thinking about traditions, and how we build our own unique ones as we live out our lives. How our children take the parts they love the most and try to incorporate them in their own lives. How some things fade into obscurity until you find an old photo and remember. You know how it goes?

The older I get, the more I think. Those cliched images of old people in rocking chairs reliving their lives and saying "Remember when...." are a little close right now. I think I am becoming one of them. Things change. It is the nature of life. And it is absolutely fine for mothers to remember the days when they controlled the traditions in their families. My friends and I were wondering recently if there would ever be a time when we would be able to have a Christmas which we orchestrated, with all the family present and correct. The enlarged family, obviously. And the extended family. A logistical nightmare in the making.

And then we got chatting about how we didn't actually savour the magic enough when the children were younger. Parts, of course. We were to busy "doing" and didn't spend enough time "being". Mary / Martha, remember. So sit back this year, my young friends, and just savour it all. Etch the memories on your hearts indelibly. The sounds. The excitement, the squeals, the mess. The twinkling lights. The music (Oh Holy Night - Kenny Rogers, in this house), The dinner cooking, and the table. The lot.

Change is good. Of course it is. The traditions still raise a grin, (Kenny will always be a grin-inducing tradition here) and the memories remain, but now that families are scattered widely, there are years when I think, oh, shall I bother with a tree? Or.... I won't do dinner. Shall I decorate? And yet, when I go away or spend the day with friends, there is something strangely missing. An emptiness. I am missing the way the noise and the people paint layers of colour into MY home and MY life. MY heart.


That sounds selfish and I don't mean it to be that at all.

I just miss the time when my children were small and Christmas is the time when I notice it most. All here, where I can see them.

Our traditions in Cape Town used to be very different, as I mentioned in the memory posts last month. Christmas in the sun. People round for sherry and mince pies on Christmas Eve, then the big dinner. Church at dawn on Christmas Day and then present opening at Granny's house. Lazy lunch, splashing in the pool,  followed by supper and huge party at Granny's house.

Here, well, we did and do things differently. Winter for Christmas. Crib service in the church in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, carols in the Square in the evening, midnight service, church in the morning and turkey cooking. (My family announced in recent years, that they do not like turkey. Right. Things change!) Family at home and maybe a walk, but usually games, puzzles and mince pies and the Queen's speech and visiting friends or having them here. The last Christmas my family was home together was in 2007, with Diana's surprise visit. I can still hear the laughter as they watched the Top Gear DVD. Priceless memories.

Christmas in Switzerland is totally different too. The main celebration is on Christmas Eve, and for my sister and her husband, Christmas Day is a normal working day,. An incredibly busy working day. Having a brother-in-law who has his own restaurant means that he cooks there, and all that remains is for me or Marge or Mum to do some baking to fill the house with the scents of OUR memories if we can. If we are there.

It is not letting go of the past. It is taking out the memories and turning them over gently in our hands and savouring them once again. It is not bad to remember. Remembering triggers all the senses going into action - something so small, like an ornament, can evoke so much more. It is not bad to occasionally long for those days. It is totally natural. I just have to bake Moregranny's gingerbread to remember my grandmother. How tiny she was. How gentle. Her big old car. Her copper bangle (for arthritis). And I used to bake the gingerbread every year for my father, to keep something of his own Christmas memories of his mother alive.

I love making Christmas cakes. The fruit cakes. I do not like eating them much. But the smell of it cooking is also Christmas to me, and I remember going to my friend Gill's place to learn how to flood ice and to another friend, Michele where we spent one year making sugar bells for our cakes. You see? One aroma and decades of memories. Good memories. That is the point. The goodness, and the warmth and the wriggling with delight as you unearth them.

I know that Diana will keep baking some of the things she remembers me baking. They also represent her Christmas memories. The Kenwood food mixer. Licking the bowl. Custies. Peanut butter biscuits. Cinnamon cake, maybe. Other stuff.

My children will take some of our traditions with them, I hope, and blend them with new ones, talking too about their memories and revealing little parts of their own history as they do so. And their lives will contain  new traditions which they will take and make their own, just as I did from my childhood and the people who played a part in my life. Their husbands and wives will one day introduce their family traditions too, and so a new pattern will be woven for their families to wrap around themselves.

I am not sad, you see - the world keeps turning and life keeps playing out its days. But as each box comes out of the loft this year, there will be a multitude of thoughts whirling through my mind. The letters to Father Christmas. The time we set up the playmobile for Andrew. The ornaments they made for me. The ones I gave as gifts. The Care Bears. The stockings. The black bags and the make up sets from Dad. Snow globes and Lindt Father Christmas chocolates. Concerts and Christmas flowers (Hydrangeas). Dancing round the kitchen as I baked. Candles flickering.

Tradtions. So personal. So much we could say. Maybe more another time.........

Day 16: I am so thankful for the memories of Christmas over the decades. Of my life. Images of faces flashing through my mind, and the way too, that the scent, sight, touch, sound, or taste of a single thing can evoke a whole chain of those memories. How can it not make me grin? Or give thanks?


Vee said...

Christmas evolves, doesn't it? I remember thinking that my grandmother had seen so many Christmas changes through the years from being a young child in her parents' home to being an old, old woman in her granddaughter's home. We shall see many changes as well. I rather enjoyed the Christmases with my own children at home. Still it's very pleasant with grandchildren, too. So I've seen lots of things shift through the years as you have. Gratitude comes to mind for me as well and joy that He was willing to come to us and is here for us in all our phases.

Dawn said...

Another good post, friend. I am wishing so much that we could afford to easily get Kevin and Angie home from Maine for Christmas. It's just not the same when they're not all here, for sure.

Hope you're feeling better today!

MotherT said...

For so many years, my husband and I ran from one set of parents to another to another for most holidays. It was exhausting! I'm so glad now that we can help our children break that particular tradition and allow them the freedom to celebrate in their own homes. Sometimes we join them, sometimes they join us, sometimes we just talk on the phone for holidays.

Needled Mom said...

It is always interesting to see what memories hang on and which ones go by the wayside. Change - good and bad!