When I was a kid, we would always come home to my Grandparent’s house for Christmas. My Grandparent’s house had been built in the 1850’s, and we were the newest generation coming together to celebrate our family and the holiday. All of my Aunts and Uncles and Cousins would converge to this one place so that three generations could spend the holiday together. We would usually be the last to arrive either on Christmas Eve or the day before. Back then I can remember my Grandmother, Mother and Aunts staying in the kitchen cooking and catching up. My Grandfather would always wait until all of us were there and then we would go out into the woods and pick the perfect Christmas Tree. The tree was always put in the parlor, in a corner with two windows. It would sit there all day without an ornament or tinsel until just the right moment. After one of my Grandmothers big wonderful suppers and when the kitchen was clean, my Grandmother would pull out all of the cherished decorations. Some ornaments were made in the late 1800’s and had been my great Grandparents. Once my Grandmother had all the boxes she had packed so carefully the year before opened, we children were allowed to start decorating the tree. The grown ups would sit and watch and direct our decorating. As a child this was the most magical part of Christmas for me. The smell of the tree, the familiar decorations, the tinsel and lights. The tree was never finished until Grandma gave her approval. Grandma always approved our childish endeavors to decorate and I can remember the tree always looked different in the morning. I always thought Santa came behind us to make it look better.
Well being a child we had to go to bed right after the tree was decorated. Being told Santa wouldn’t come to the house unless we were asleep was enough for us, but once my cousins and I bundled into the big bed all we could do is talk and wonder if we would get what we wish for. Grandma would come in a couple of times and do the Santa/sleep thing, but she would finally hit us with Mr. Wilson. He’s sort of the resident ghost of the house. I think I wrote about him some time back. Anyway that was enough for us. As I grew up and joined the ranks, I found out the adults would stay up late in the night wrapping presents and putting together toys.
Next morning guess who was up first? Yep we kids would be dragging all the grown ups out of bed. The door to the parlor was closed and we knew we couldn’t go in until everybody was up. Once everyone was up my oldest Aunt would always be the first to go in with all of us behind her. She was the presenter of the family. The adults would sit in chairs and the couches and we child would be on the floor around the tree. My Aunt would pick up one present at a time and call out whose it was. The anticipation sometimes was maddening, but it was so wonderful when your name was called. When it was something like a bicycle it was always saved until last and up until that time you thought Santa had forgotten about it. When just at the last it would be rolled in. When all the presents were opened my Grandmother, Mother and Aunts would start a big breakfast for all. We kids had no interest in eating at all, but the adults would get us away from whichever toy we were playing with and to the table. My Grandmother was such a wonderful cook that I think back and look at all the great meals I just wolfed down, but at that time it was THE TOYS!!!!
Every family creates their own traditions and every grown up remember those wonderful times of being young and the wonder and surprise. We still celebrate holidays at the old farmhouse, although no one lives there anymore. My Grandparents traditions run firmly in us and now my sister is the presenter of the family. We are now the adults staying up late into the night and the next morning sitting in the chairs and couches. I watch the newest generation and see the wonder and surprise in their young faces, and I remember.
This old house has seen my family through many good and bad times. I wished I knew more about the day to day lives of my ancestors, but I don’t. I do know that since the beginning, that one room, the parlor has celebrated Christmas and family for about 153 years. I hope that the future generations of our family will come there to celebrate and enjoy each other. It makes me feel good to know that past, present and future generations have and will enjoy Christmas in that house.
I hope everyone's holidays are the best this year!