My extended family is far-flung.
My mom grew up in Kentucky; my dad in Tennessee. They moved to Texas right before I was born.
During my early childhood years, we spent the Christmas holidays in either Kentucky or Tennessee. Or both. But my parents longed to celebrate the season in their own home, creating their own traditions. So over the next few years, more and more of our visits to my parents’ home states took place during the summer.
That meant our Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were pretty quiet and intimate. And oh, how I loved the simplicity of it all. On Christmas Eve, either I or one of my two sisters would read the Christmas story aloud from the family Bible. Then we would open gifts one at a time so that everyone could take the time to express immediate thanks for each present.
Then I married into Hubs very large East Texas family and was thereby initiated into the world of Giant Family Holidays. I found it petrifying.
I still remember those first few Thanksgivings. Lord almighty, I had never seen such a crowd trying to cram into one modest three-bedroom house.
So many people. So much noise. Too many cooks in the kitchen but not enough seating at dinner.The table allowed for only eight, so everyone else sprawled on couches or found a chair outside on the deck.
And then there was Christmas. The present-opening was the biggest assault to my already overwhelmed senses. Everyone just started ripping paper and flinging bows around the living room. I had no idea who had gotten what from whom. It was confusing. Loud. Disorienting.
Except for last year. Christmas 2008 was a subdued affair. My mother-in-law was dying, and we all knew it would be her last Christmas.
My husband caught this image with his camera. See how my father-in-law is looking at his wife of five decades? It breaks your heart.
This Christmas will likely be subdued as well. Someone else will put up the tree and decorate the house with Mammaw’s many knicks and knacks. My father-in-law will miss the homey smell of dayslong baking. And I know that at some point, I’ll miss the rambunctious nature of Christmases past.