I made the following blog post many years ago when I first started blogging. I know I have readers who weren't around then, so I thought it might be an appropriate time to repost it. Happy Holidays!
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was fortunate to grow up in a very large extended family. My mom was
one of seven children and my grandparents and all their married children
lived in the same good-sized town. Even though I had only one brother,
my childhood was spent surrounded with many, many cousins, aunts and
uncles and my grandparents, all of whom I saw weekly if not more often.
One get together that was a tradition for the whole clan for all my growing up years was our Christmas Eve celebration at Uncle Frank and Aunt Helen's house. Uncle Frank had the distinction of being the first born of the seven kids; much to his chagrin, he was the only male child followed by six females.
Uncle Frank and Aunt Helen were the most well-to-do of the family. Not that Uncle Frank didn't work for his prosperity. When he was just thirteen, he started working in a small auto repair shop next door to where Grandma and Grandpa lived. By the time he was forty, he owned the business which by then had become a thriving enterprise.
The basement of my uncle's house was finished off into a very classy "rec room" complete with fireplace, comfortable furniture and a home bar. Not at all like the basement of our house which was . . . well, a basement.
The party on Christmas Eve was pretty much the same every year. We all dressed up (haven't we lost something these days when we all dress so casually no matter the occasion?) in special Christmas outfits, and each family brought a festive dish to pass. Uncle Frank and his family provided the liquid libations for both adults and children.
What a group we made. At first we numbered probably around 28, adults and kids. As the years went by and more little ones were born, our ranks swelled to about 36; sixteen adults and twenty children.
Other than eating a lot of good food, I can't remember anything specific we did on those Christmas Eves. The night was very low key and enjoyable. When we cousins were little we played the usual games, got into the usual squabbles and probably drove the adults crazy. As we grew older, we entered into more discussions, both with each other and our elders. Now that I think back on it, I guess it was pretty amazing that that many family members got along so well and could spend an evening together with no one having too much to drink and/or behaving in an undesirable way. (Well, perhaps there were a couple or three of the men who enjoyed the free spirits more than they would have under other non-holiday circumstances, but everyone was jovial and happy, and a couple of the wives would now and then commandeer the car keys before heading home.)
Heading home. Ah, that was the part of the evening that always caused me much angst. For some reason, I had the idea Santa wouldn't stop at our house if we weren't home and all tucked safely in bed. I was just sure we would fail to get home before Santa got to us on his route. You have no idea how anxious I was as I sat with my face pressed up against the cold car window scanning the heavens as we drove the few miles home. My eyes were peeled searching for a lit up sleigh pulled by reindeer racing across the night sky. I never did spot Santa's entourage (thank goodness as I'm sure I would have burst into hysterical tears if I had) on our way home. My brother and I probably made it out of our festive duds, on with our p.j.s and into bed faster than any other night of the year. Knowing it was okay for Santa to arrive since we were home, we quickly fell asleep thinking of the fun time we'd just had with all of our cousins, Grandma and Grandpa, and aunts and uncles on yet another Christmas Eve.
Awe such great memories. My were ok. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.
Suzanne - Happy Holidays to you, too, Suzanne!
Nice! I love going to my grandparents house during the holidays all kinds of fun things to do low-key and lots of great homemade food!
Nancy - We who had comfy-cozy grandparents were very fortunate, weren't we? The food we got there was just different enough from what we got at home to be special. Happy Holidays!
Great memories Mama Pea. I'll have to tell you about mine sometime - How did Santa know which corner of the large farmhouse living room to leave for each child (especially one who sleep walks)?
I loved this post. I tried leaving you a comment from my phone, but now I realize it didn't go through. I can imagine that finished basement and the kids playing board games and the parents laughing loudly upstairs. You were very fortunate to have such a tight knit family! -Jenn
DFW - Oh, do tell! (And do I guess correctly that you were the sleep walker?)
Jenn - I probably didn't make it clear but we ALL stayed in the basement rec room for the night's celebration and get-together. Funny, as a child, it never seemed too crowded. And that was only half of the basement. The other half contained the utility area, washer and dryer and such. I should check with my brother to see if I'm remembering it all correctly!
No, it wasn't me but myself & each of my then 5 - 8 year old cousins would wake up when he started 'walking'. It drove his parents crazy that he might walk out on the country road some night (besides holidays, every other weekend was 'get together' weekend at my Grandmother's house). Christmas was extra special since we couldn't sleep anyway & we all watched out for Dan. Somehow we all fell aslseep before Santa arrived & we each knew what corner/side of the wall/etc. where each of our Santa presents were. Imagine a 25' wall opposite the fireplace w/sleeping bags/blow up mattreseses(sp?), etc., all up & down & in the middle. How our parents managed that feat is beyond me - too bad we didn't have video of them maneurving the piles. Also, my Dad would always bring paper bags of FL citrus fruit & nuts for all the kids (30+) to be given on Christmas morning (miss him more than I would have ever thought I would). Each bag was inspected & 'played with' more than the gifts they received from Santa. Ahh memory lane ... thanks for taking me down it. Hope you guys have a very Merry Chirstmas & enjoy the rest of the holiday season. Thank you for being you & for being around so I can enjoy your stories.
DFW - Omigosh, just trying to imagine all of you spread out on the floor! What a sight that must have been. And, yes, the task your parents had to navigate between all of you. Today with families spread out all over the country (world?!), a family gathering like yours isn't likely to occur. (Mine, either!) There is a special quality to memories of long ago and I'm so glad you shared yours. And thank you so much for your kind words. Happy Holidays!
Sweet memories ❤️
Thank you, Mama Pea! What a wonderful memory, and delightfully written. Merry Christmas!
aww. Every human being should have had the benefit of such a wonderful memory in their past. Ours were never totally ok. I remember we ate a seafood chowder that was traditional to my dad’s family - which I hated but ate so I could get past it for the holiday ahead. Then we trimmed the Christmas tree - yes - on Christmas Eve - that seems so strange now and that was fun. Then mom packed my sister and I in the car to ride around to see the Christmas lights on peoples houses - and now thinking back on it I believe she did that because my dad began drinking then and he was ugly when he drank and when we returned home he was asleep - usually. He was an alcoholic so getting drunk was not the result on a party where you had just one too many. Christmas memories were made very carefully and deliberately as mom could make them under the circumstances. Your memories sound perfect. How wonderful to have a big family all around - year round. Merry Christmas.
Yes, dear sister, adults and kids all stayed in the basement except when some of the older kids went to the upstairs family room just to get away for awhile.
As you know, Mom didn't drive and I remember some very "worrisome" drives home over the High street bridge. We loved all our aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Goatldi - That they are and I'm glad I originally took the time to get it all down in writing!
Leigh - It was fun to write and brought back a lot of memories. Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Retired Knitter - Bless your wonderful mother for engineering Christmas so it was as good for you kids as it could be. As for putting up the tree on Christmas Eve, I've know of several families where the parents put up the tree (Santa was given credit for it) after the kids were asleep on Christmas Eve. I suppose it added to a child's excitement on Christmas morning when waking to find the sight of the decorated tree with the presents underneath. Yes, I did have a very fortunate childhood to a very large degree because of the large, extended family that all lived within a few miles of each other. That just doesn't happen these days, it seems. Happy Holidays to you!
Anonymous (Brother J) - Do you know several years passed before I realized that some Christmas Eve drives home Dad was happily tipsy!? (Guess I was too focused on spying Santa in the sky.) I always wondered why Mom, being a very capable and intelligent woman, never got her driver's license. She told me it was because Dad, who was happy staying at home, would never have gone anywhere with her if she didn't need him to drive. :o\ Love you!
Rajani Rehana - Thank you!
Big family get-togethers were infrequent during my childhood, since our relatives were widely scattered. But I have very fond memories of Christmas, just the four of us (mom, step-dad, step-brother and me), and when there WAS a big family get-together it was magical! My husband grew up with much more predictable celebrations, always going to his maternal grandparents' for Thanksgiving and his paternal grandparents' for Christmas, so he mourns the lack of such predictable traditions in our home.
Michelle - There's nothing we can do about times changing, so I guess we just have to learn to flow with it. Or start new traditions. In most cases, the size of families has gotten smaller these days, and our mobile society has scattered members all over the place. Add the blasted virus epidemic into the mix and many traditions have gone by the wayside lately. The answer may be to make the holidays relaxed, peaceful and be as appreciative as we can be just now. Sending Merry Christmas wishes to you across the country!
It sounds so wonderful. Our family was a small one, but we had traditions (thanks to my very regimented mother) that kept us secure and happy through our childhood. Lovely memories. xo
Susan - As they say, bigger is not always better! A small family gathering can be wonderful, too. Bless your mom who, as have so many women, have made Christmas and all holidays into traditions that have created lots and lots of good memories. Hugs to you!
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