Our Tree is Down
I’m quietly celebrating the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Because I will soon be driving south, I have already taken down my decorations, and today I will put them in boxes and back in the garage until next year.
I love this week. The cards and letters have been mailed, the presents wrapped, shipped, opened, exclaimed over, and put away. I sift through my memories of Advent, making Christmas crafts with my granddaughter; quiet nights writing notes to friends and family, reading their letters and cards; celebratory meals with loved ones; gift exchanges and precious time together.
Time to Reflect
I munch on a marzipan orange as I write a thank you note. Bean brought me the photograph of an ornate centerpiece about two weeks before our family Christmas dinner, with an expression of expectation and joy — and absolute certainty that we could create such a thing with our own hands. Skeptical as I was, I allowed her confidence to prevail and we did it – it took several days and lots of laughter, but eventually we made a wonderful piece of art together.
A lone Christmas cracker sits on the mantel, un-popped, a memory of the dinner guest who never arrived. I smile as I remember my wonderful family, all outfitted in paper hats from their crackers, reading silly jokes to one another and attempting to play cards with 1″ x 2″ decks or figure out how to solve a tiny metal puzzle.
When I spent Christmas in England with my family two years ago, my cousin Lynda made crackers from a kit. Our gifts were personalized, and actual working models (including the tiny bottle of single malt Scotch that came out of my cracker). I don’t suppose I’ll ever open another cracker without thinking of that lovely meal, or of Lynda’s sister Jaci, who passed away that year.
My family isn’t quite so into Christmas cakes, however, the baking of which is a long-held tradition in our English family. My mother always baked her cakes in October, on Stir Up Sunday, along with a plum pudding. I rarely get mine made before Thanksgiving, and this year it was the week before Christmas, but it was iced and ready for Christmas dinner. Fortunately, it’s the making of the cake that is special for me, not the eating, because most of my children preferred the apple cake, the pecan pie, or nothing.
Baking Christmas cakes takes me back to my own childhood and my mother showing me how to separate the eggs, how to sift the flour before measuring, and how to dredge the candied fruit and nuts in flour before adding the fruit into the egg and flour mixture.
We always ate the fruitcake sliced in small squares with sharp cheddar cheese. My dad preferred Wensleydale cheese, which wasn’t available even in specialty stores when I was a child, but now it can be found in supermarkets starting in November.
Since my grown-up children don’t much care for fruitcake, I suspect this tradition may end with me.
This year brought three new grandchildren into our family, and I have spent much of the last two months visiting the two who live farthest away. (The other one was at my house yesterday playing with 5 year old Bean while her parents chowed down on Christmas leftovers). Now my heart is filled with wonderful baby memories.
At the end of this week I am driving to southern California to take care of the youngest baby, just three months old, while her parents work. I will be there until the middle of April.
While I am full time Grandmothering, I’ve decided to take a break from writing this blog. I’m sure you understand. This grandparenting is important stuff, and I want to do it right.
I’ll continue to post educational articles on my Grandparenting Matters Facebook Page, so you’ll find me there, and you can always respond there or come back here and comment on a previous post; either way I’ll see it, and I’ll respond.
But for now, it will be family first, writing second. If I do any writing at all, it will be the beginning of the memoir I have been talking about writing for several years. This might be finally be the year for it.
I’m packing my car and looking forward to new beginnings. I hope you are also.
Happy New Year!