Things change; there’s just no getting around it.
I remember Christmas when I was little. Sneaking with my brother Byron into the front room where Mama had worked to make everything appear magical – twinkling lights, new toys, stockings full of good things to eat. Where did she find those PERFECT oranges and apples? Did she just make sure to never buy them that looked that good the rest of the year so that these would be so special?
I remember going to Grandmama and Granddaddy’s house for Christmas with the extended family, playing with my cousins, eating a delicious meal, opening gifts from whoever drew our name, plus at least one other from our grandparents. The day was always long and full of loud fun and love. I remember leaning my head back in the back seat of the car, looking at the bright stars through the rear window on the way home, thinking they looked extra bright and beautiful this night compared to all other nights – magical. I thought the pretty lights on our Christmas tree were magical too. I even sang “Oh Christmas Tree” to it when no one was looking.
After Grandmama died, Christmas at Grandmama and Granddaddy’s was over. Just like that. The very next Christmas. I didn’t understand—Granddaddy was still there. But my mother and her siblings all had grandkids of their own now, so . . . I guess it was just time for everyone to change to doing “the big Christmas thing” with these families. We still went to visit Granddaddy of course—we just never all gathered together at the same time in the same place for Christmas anymore.
And so we did that. And that too has changed over the years. In-laws have come (and sometimes gone.) Children have been added, and then grown up. Over the years we’ve gone from everyone buying something for everyone else, to drawing names for real gifts, to drawing names for cheap silly gifts and then stealing them from each other. We still haven’t tried Paul’s suggestion yet—that we all just bring a $20 bill, and stand up in a circle and hand ours to the person next to us. But gifts have taken on a lesser meaning, and a smaller bite out of our budgets. It’s the being together that has really always mattered the most.
Magic is a hard thing to hold on to. I can do without it. But family is worth a tighter grip.