Writers on Writing: 18 Blogs of Christmas
I was going to write about cookies. But I’ve been visited by Christmas Past a few times lately, leaving me in a nostalgic mood. I write about family a lot—Liz Talbot’s family and others, both happily and unhappily dysfunctional. Today I’d like to tell you about Christmas with my family.
When I was a child, we went to church on Christmas Eve. We sang carols in the candlelight. There was always a Christmas play—some years I was in it. A giant tree stood decorated in the front corner of the church with treat bags for us children underneath. And my grandmother always sang “O Holy Night” solo. It’s still my favorite Christmas song.
After church we went to my grandmother’s house for dinner. Because we had turkey at Thanksgiving, my grandfather’s tradition was to smoke a pork shoulder at Christmas. All the men would go outside and stand around the smoker to talk while the pork finished cooking. It wasn’t until I was married that I learned my grandfather’s other Christmas tradition was to pass around the moonshine.
Of course us children couldn’t wait for the family present exchange that came after dinner. I can still taste the excitement. Driving the five miles home, I watched the sky for Santa’s sleigh. Christmas morning brought gifts from Santa, and Christmas evening we had dinner with Dad’s side of the family at my other grandmother’s house.
Through the eyes of an adult, the presents, while nice, are unimportant. It’s family that means everything. I just want to soak in every hug, every embellished story, every squabble, every joke that’s been told a hundred times, every peal of laughter, every bite of Mamma’s stuffing and Aunt Aggie’s green bean casserole—every precious moment of the holiday season. Because the truth is, for most of the year, we run so fast that we don’t spend near enough time together. But during the holidays, long-held tradition brings us together.
The years have flown by. In a blur of Christmas photos, I’m married with children of my own. In moments frozen in time, I can see each successive Christmas as our family grew and suffered loss. My grandmother’s last Christmas was bittersweet. We all knew she was going in for surgery a few days later, and we knew the prognosis wasn’t good. We held on to her and each other extra tight. I asked, and she sang “O Holy Night” a cappella.
Now all of my grandparents have passed on, and I’m a grandmother myself. We now have five separate Christmas gatherings just to make the rounds to family—our tribe has done its part on the whole “go forth and multiply” thing. Sometimes it feels overwhelming— decorating, shopping, wrapping, and cooking for multiple events.
But I’ve learned to take a deep breath and be thankful for each and every moment with every person in our crazy, sprawling family.
Like every other family, those bonded by blood and those who chose each other, we have our share of worries this holiday season. But I’ll pause in the warm, the glow, the happy, and roll around in it. Because every memory is precious. And I know, I truly know, how richly I am blessed.
Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.
Susan M. Boyer is the author of the Liz Talbot Mystery Series set in the Charleston, SC area. Liz lives on Stella Maris, a nearby sea island.
Her latest Liz Talbot Mystery is Lowcountry Book Club, which released July 2016.