An odd title, I know. I hope I can make some sense of it – I am a bit muddled these days.
Christmas is upon us yet again. Everyone is busy asking the same questions over and over: “It’s December already?”, “Where did the year go?”, etc, etc. It’s that time of year where tradition actually means something in my family. The one time when the rules are simple – Christmas Eve family gift exchange at the Grandparents (baked goods provided by Gramma – do not be late or you will have to fight for saffron buns and pepparkakor), followed by Christmas dinner at 5pm, same venue, don’t be late, come hungry. Easy enough right? I would’ve agreed a few weeks ago, however my inner cynic has been in full grinch mode – and, unfortunately, got me thinking.
The season has become quite somber for our little clan over the past few years. December 2003 saw the passing of my youngest sister, just 3 days before Christmas. November 2008 saw the passing of her mother, my stepmother. The one thing that has remained constant in my life, my whole life, is the Christmas day spread put on by my Gramma. It was the one thing that was so familiar, so routine, that despite tragedy we always gathered at the same table to have Christmas dinner. In the past few years, we have all stepped in to help out in an attempt to have Gramma sit back and enjoy and basically get out of the kitchen. We do help with the cooking, the baking, the table, the clean up… but she runs the show, and don’t you forget it.
Her stroke a few weeks ago has left us all in a daze. Christmas dinner is the last item on the agenda – but it’s potential absence has created a sort of panic in me. Imagine having one completely safe place, but it only appears once a year. It’s fast approaching but something may prevent you from seeing it and you don’t know if it’s guaranteed ever again. Dramatic I suppose, but it echos my choice of title. The turkey. The roast beef. The ham. The rice and peas and mac and cheese. All the fixings and sides that fill the table to overflowing every year. This is the tradition that I grew up knowing and loving.
Then a few days ago it hit me. I know why I feel this way. I know why I am afraid this tradition may fade away. I know why I am afraid my Gramma may not recover from her ordeal. She is Christmas in our family, it is her legacy. Of everything I’ve known in my life, this tradition and experience is the single most important thing I want to share with my son. I fear he may never know what it feels like to have our little clan racing for the most comfortable chair after eating ourselves into near comas. My grandparents going around and asking how many trips you’ve made to the table and that you need to get up and go again. It’s his first real Christmas and although he likely won’t remember any of it, passing on the one real tradition we have has become painfully important to me.
As we play it day by day, I’m taking the one lesson life has brutally taught me time and time again – life goes on. I’m going to make dinner happen. I may eat alone, but the show must go on. There may be an air of selfishness, even a desperate need for familiarity in my statement, but it’s just something I need to do. I figure it may be some sort of coping mechanism for me, but I’m not sure how Gramma’s noticeable absence in the kitchen will go over for us all.
I hope for her improvement and that she’ll be home by then. I hope she knows how much she is loved. I hope that whatever may come, we never forget to be grateful for this amazing woman.
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