Monday, December 29, 2014

A Post Holiday Musing

First an RV update:  The infernal leak has been located and patched.  We've had 3 relatively heavy rainfalls (sometimes spanning more than a few days - go figure, we live in the Seattle area), and the patch has held.  No signs of any leaks.  Kim will now begin to put things back together, and he has assured me that if I start making reservations for March and April, I will not have to change them up yet again.  I'm holding him to it.

Now, on to the musings....

Re:  Holiday Traditions

When I was growing up, we had set holiday plans.  It rarely varied.  All holidays were celebrated at our house, with my paternal grandparents.  My mother claimed Christmas Eve to share her traditions.  This meant lutefisk, boiled white potatoes, rutabagas, peas and creamed onions.  This was followed by a drive around the area admiring Christmas lights.  It also meant opening presents Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning, my sister and I were allowed to get up on our own, open our stockings and see what gifts Santa brought.  We just had to be quiet about it.  Eventually the adults got up, and we had breakfast of Yulekaka (Norwegian Christmas bread), scrabbled eggs, sausage and grapefruit.  Then it was off to church.  The rest of the day was spent playing quietly (as it was in those days, children were to be seen but not heard).  Most all of the Christmas Day foods and traditions (roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, broccoli and pecan pie served on Christmas Tree Spode and using the good silver), was determined by my dad's side of the family.  Whether or not my grandfather gave dinner a two thumbs up was what decided if it was a good or a bad holiday.

Of course, in my mind, it was always a good Christmas.  There was no drama.  Everyone got along.  All was good.  In hind sight, I'm guessing my mom would have told a different story.

Once my sister and I grew up and got married and had kids, things changed a little.  My grandparents had passed away. My sister and I both married into large families that had their own established traditions.  My husband had a son from a previous marriage, who always celebrated Christmas at his mother's home.  We started celebrating Christmas with my family the day after Christmas.  It just worked out better for all.  I think my mother appreciated that she could have a relaxed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, go to church without having to rush home to cook, and make sure everyone was happy.

Once my mother was of an age that she could no longer host the holiday celebrations, it landed on my sister and me.  We tried to keep the traditions going but eventually our father had passed away, and our mother was nursing home bound.  We started celebrating just with our own immediate families.  By this time our kids were old enough that we were working to establish our own traditions.  My Christmas Eve tradition is that we will never, ever, have lutefisk in our house again.  Other than that, I have really established any tradition other than a Christmas Wreath jello mold that I serve every year.  We also use the Christmas Tree Spode, but not the good silver (I also don't want to polish silver if I don't have to).

Four paragraphs later, and I'm finally getting to the point of this musing.  How the heck can I have the Christmas of my childhood memories when I'm the one in charge?  I've tried.  It is darned near impossible, not with toddlers around.  And should I mention that it is totally unrealistic?  It is all about expectations, isn't it?

This was the insight I had at Thanksgiving this year.  My grandsons did not care about how I had imagined this perfect turkey dinner, where everyone sat down at the table, said grace, and then raved about my wonderful cooking.  Heavy emphasis on the word "imagined" here.  First of all, I'm not a great cook and if anyone raves about just one dish - I'm usually pretty pumped.  While grace was part of every meal I had growing up, it is not something I've carried through with my kids.  We do have the talk about all the things for which we are grateful, but formal grace has rarely been said.  And finally, I have yet to cook the perfect turkey.  Half of us like it moist and juicy, half of us like it definitely cooked through and through.  The potatoes are never warm, and the gravy turns out only about 50% of the time.  And like my mother, God bless her, I almost always forget to take the rolls out of the oven.  All this happens on its own.  Add 4 grandsons under the age of 5 to the mix, and the whole day is far from relaxed.  They are never all hungry at the same time, nor do they like the same foods, and they seem to find nothing more fun to do than run around the kitchen.  I love my grandsons, and I would never change anything...except maybe my own expectations.

Taking this all into consideration, I decided to try something new for Christmas.  My son and his wife and their two boys, would come to our house at noon on Christmas Day, to be joined by our oldest son, and our daughter with her two boys.  We would have a day of snacks and finger food.  The kids could open their gifts and play.  The adults could munch away and visit.  We used paper plates and paper napkins.  My grandparents would have been appalled.  My mother is undoubtedly applauding my decision to take away all the stress of fixing a meal, and just taking time to enjoy my family.  As the grandsons get older, there will be plenty of time for formal sit down dinners with the Spode and the good silver.  For the next couple of years, it will be munchies and paper plates and no expectations.  Life is good.

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