It's been a long time since I have felt such a longing for Christmas celebrations with my family. I miss them every year but this one is the worst.
Today is icy cold. Snow blankets the ground, ice covers the byways, the air outdoors frosts your nose and lungs with your first breath. Lights, white and colored, sparkle on the homes and businesses along the short ride home. A lump rises in my throat as I remember these same sights and feelings from years gone by. Icy roads, 26 below zero temperatures, miles of driving in barely running vehicles with bald tires; nothing could stop us from attending our annual Kinghorn Christmas party.
When my siblings and I were in our youth, with very young children, the Christmas season was filled with planning and anticipation of gathering together to celebrate with each other, kids, spouses or "partners" and our dear Mom, Beth. Like most young families, none of us were independently wealthy, so we would draw names among the kids and adults, setting a dollar limit affordable to all, for a gift exchange at our annual party. In the beginning we would gather at the home of the sibling with the most room. Everyone would bring hot foods, salads, pies, cakes and goodies to share for the feast we would enjoy all evening long. There was always roasted turkey and baked ham. Home made rolls, hot for the initial feasting, were made in abundance, leaving enough for the "sandwiches", made from the leftover meats, for later evening hunger pangs. I must say, my family was gifted with an abundance of fabulous cooks.
As the years passed and families grew larger, we had to rent a church hall, or the Senior Citizens center to hold everyone; for in addition to immediate family members, there were friends of kids, friends of siblings, friends of friends, in-laws & out-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins included. The welcome mat was always at the door for anyone.
We would visit, eat, sing carols, play games, eat more, show off the talents of our kids, then eat some more. (I said it was Feast) My brother Bob, who loved kids and making them happy, would slip out to dress in his Santa suit for the gift exchange. The kids would be thrilled, even those who were suspicious because "Santa's nose sure looks like Uncle Bob's". Everyone, adults and kids alike, would sit on Santa's lap, tell him their Christmas wishes, receive a candy cane, then the beautifully wrapped gift from the exchange. Hysterical laughter would accompany the unveiling of the "treasures" a couple of bucks would buy. In later years, we opted for white elephants only, so that those with near empty wallets could participate without pressure or embarrassment. Those were the best gift exchanges of all, a fact we all concurred on. Oh, how precious and joyous are those memories.
Years passed, our kids grew into adulthood, starting families of their own, scattering hither and yon until the annual Kinghorn Christmas celebration is no more. It was a sad passing, yet opened the door for many other family gatherings as the family tree has branched out. This is my fourth Christmas away from my family and yes, I am having a pity party for myself because I miss them and long to be singing off-key to the karaoke machine Sandee takes to Michelle's house for the Christmas gathering they have each year. I long to see my (maybe even myself) family get tipsy and silly; my grand kids get noisy and sometimes obnoxious; my tummy to bloat from too much food; to feel the warmth, love and hugs from these very important people in my life, and to just sit back and watch, knowing this will continue into forever. Maybe next year... 2010 for certain!