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Holiday traditions


Christmas 2011
When I was a little girl, I remember laying in my pink canopy bed on Christmas Eve counting down the hours to Christmas morning. As I got older, I would sometimes manage to stay awake until "Santa" snuck in my room to place a gift under the small tree on my dresser. On Christmas morning, my sisters and I would eagerly unwrap our little gifts and anxiously wait until our parents were awake, the coffee had brewed, and they were stationed at the bottom of the stairs with a video camera. We giggled impatiently when they would holler, "Ten more minutes!" When we were finally allowed to leave our rooms, we would race down the stairs, round the corner to the family room, and squeal with delight at the glittering tree piled high with presents, my brother already waiting. As we tore into our stockings, we were all wondering what Santa had brought us this year. The night before we had celebrated Jesus' birthday at our grandmother's house over clam chowder and birthday cupcakes. After the feast, we opened the presents under her tree. My brother opening layer after layer of wrapping paper until he finally got to the envelope of cash. Christmas morning we would open presents, eat "Christmas eggs" and smokies made by my dad, and spend the day lounging in pajamas and putting batteries in new toys. I can still see the Christmas tree standing in the corner of our living room, the little birds and apples hanging festively on the tree in our entry way, the garland and strings of lights wrapped around the banister. How many evenings I sat on the stairs in my flannel nightgown fingering the warm round light bulbs, listening to Barbara Streisand while my mother baked molasses sugar cookies in the kitchen, wishing today was Christmas Eve...

D's first Christmas was stressful. I had six days with W after being apart since Labor Day weekend; we spent three with my family and three with his. The time with his family was divided between his parents. The few days we had together were spent packing, driving, flying, and arguing. The following years we played by ear, if we would travel, where we would travel to, and if W would even be home for the holiday. We have lived in three different states, four different homes since D was born. Our good friends are at the top of our Christmas card list instead of down the road and our close family member's addresses are saved on our favorite online shopping sites with the hope their gifts will arrive on time. This is the first year we have no holiday party invites and the second year I was unable to throw a holiday get-together. Our current home is also too small for a Christmas tree. However, there are no complaints because my husband is home, was home last year, and will be home the next two years. We have the opportunity to implement our own holiday traditions, especially as holiday travelling is becoming more and more difficult--and expensive-- with our growing family.

How do we start our own traditions? What is really important? This year I'm not busy planning my holiday brunch with my girlfriends or baking for my bad holiday sweater cookie swap or frustrated because all the baby-sitters are taken the night of the boat Christmas party. I'm not juggling our schedule with Christmas open houses or asking my husband to come home early so I can get to so-and-so's for such-and-such. We haven't bundled the boys up and gone to a tree lighting this year and I missed the parades because of my hand injury (read Thanksgiving Injury and Thankful). We don't have a lot of money to buy everything we want for the boys or for our families. But what we have is enough.

Sometimes I think back to my childhood and my heart aches because I would love to give "same-ness" to my boys, the same tree standing in the same corner of the same house each year, decorated with a hand-made ornament collection that grows each year. I know my husband has the same feelings. A couple nights ago my husband said we should move our kitchen table the night before Christmas and set up the Christmas tree. We laughed out loud over how D's face would light up on Christmas morning-- what a surprise! Both of us long to start our own traditions, our own holiday routines. We may put our tree up in a new living room-- or eating area-- every year. We may be missing new friendships and old friendships. We will have years where we are apart, missing Daddy, hovering over our media and hoping for an email or phone call.

Eventually, our traditions will fall into place. Our children will have their own fond holiday memories to reflect on once they are grown. For now we are brimming with happiness that we are together for the holidays, enjoying every moment as a family. That is more than enough.

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