For the last month or so, I've been feeling a bit nostalgic for Christmases past.
Things haven't been the same for a very long time, but I thought I'd put down my memories into words so that I can continue to remember those happy Christmases from when I was younger.
My whole life, I've lived in the same town as both sets of my grandparents. Because of this, we were blessed to have double the holidays. I also knew all but one set of my great-grandparents. Holidays were HUGE! None were bigger than our annual Christmas Eve celebration.
Christmas Eve started pretty early, around 5:00 in the evening. We'd go visit my mom's parents. Grandma would have a huge spread of turkey, ham, jello salads, rolls, veggies....lots and lots of food. Grandma and Grandpa lived in a teeny, tiny house (which has always amazed me, because they raised 12 children in that teeny little house.) We would crowd as many of the local aunts, uncles and cousins that we could. Grandma would have us go downstairs to open our present from her and Grandpa, and often, we'd open a present from the family who had our family. (It was easier for one family to buy for another rather than everyone buy for EVERYONE in the family....) We'd always sit around and laugh. And for a special treat, the little kids would often gather around Grandpa's train display that would run around his Christmas tree. It was a magical time.
After visiting my mom's parents, we'd visit our great-grandparents. First was Grandma and Grandpa W. They had a house-full as well, and their house was even SMALLER than my other grandparents' house. We'd squeeze in the whole family and kids would sit UNDER the table to eat. And eat we DID! Grandma W would have a HUGE spread of everything: turkey, mashed potatoes, salads, jello, pies....it was FABULOUS! Then after we'd filled our bellies, we'd gather in the small room that held their tree (where I would often sit and just stare at the pretty lights and just sit and think about what Christmas REALLY meant. Even now, thinking about it, I'm feeling peaceful and happy.) Grandpa would pull out the gifts and we'd tear into them. It was always fun!
After seeing Grandma and Grandpa W, we'd head around the corner and down the street to Grandma H's. Grandpa died when I was very young, so I don't have many memories of him, but I remember going to Grandma's house. Her house is a blur of purples and happy scents in my mind. (Mingled with a little scent of moth balls....not so yummy...) It never failed, but we'd always show up at her house just a LITTLE too late. Every year one of Santa's elves would show up with a box filled with bags and bags of goodies for all of the great-grands. Those bags would have peanuts, hard candies, apples and oranges in them. The smell of the brown paper bag would mix with the other scents, and would make me happy. We'd sit and talk at Grandma's house for a while, the whole time she'd be offering food to us, to which we'd politely decline... It seems like there was always an argument of some sort at this house (the H's are NOTORIOUS for arguing....) And shortly after having Grandma open our gift, we'd head out.
After leaving Grandma's we'd drive around town looking at the twinkling lights. The radio would play those beautiful Christmas songs, and we would sing along. We would get home VERY late, and I would try my hardest to fall asleep so Santa could come, but I never managed to fall asleep easily. I still have problems falling asleep easily on Christmas Eve.
Those were fun nights, very busy, but fun. I miss those busy nights....my grandparents have died (for the most part....only my mom's dad is still with us...) and even then, the traditions have changed. I find myself wanting to drive to those houses just so it can feel as magical as it did when I was younger. I know it can never be the same, but I still find those thoughts running through my mind this time of year.