Saturday, November 1, 2014

Family at Christmas

This time of year, I miss my grandmother. She started so many traditions in our family. I’ve tried and tried to recreate her Thanksgiving. I don’t cook like she did, so that can’t happen. I don’t have fourteen grandchildren to lead up a ridge on a hike, so I take a walk around my neighborhood. Most of all, I don’t have her to talk to. But I think about her, and I try to be as loving as she was. As nurturing.
Because getting to know my maternal grandmother after I was ten, and my parents split up was a life-changing experience.
This week, Melinda Curtis and Anna J. Stewart and I are releasing Christmas, Actually, an anthology of holiday stories we set in Christmas Town, Maine.
Our stories are about three siblings who are having a Christmas that alters their lives forever. They have a family tradition that concerns a secret Santa. I love Secret Santa gifts because they require some thinking and concern. Santa’s secret gift for the Banning siblings is a hint they must decipher to receive their real gift. I can’t remember which of us thought of that as we were plotting, but it was a great idea.
My grandmother had a Christmas tradition. Every year, my mom and her four siblings exchanged names on Thanksgiving, and one family bought gifts for another.
On Christmas Eve, we all gathered at Grandma’s. We’d crowd in, each waiting for all the cousins to arrive so the festivities could begin. Grandpa, who had a sweet tooth, had chocolates and nuts sprinkled around the house, and that one night in the year, we could have as many as we wanted. The tree glittered. The food was delish. The presents were stacked in mysterious shapes beneath the tree.
But there were fourteen gifts that came in exactly the same shape. Every year, my grandmother covered a shoebox for all of my cousins and brothers and me, and she shopped for small gifts for each of us all year long. Each gift was filled with her love for each of us, and I still like to think of her in a shop, thinking of one of us as a trinket caught her eye. One year I had a tiny pink tea set. Sometimes there would be clothes for my Barbie, or a Hot Wheels car. Always, she included a book for me.
That’s a tradition I wish I’d kept with my family. What did you look forward to most at Christmas with your family?

Since Christmas, Actually was just released, we're leaping with holiday spirit here, so commenters on our blog from today, SundayMonday, and Wednesday will be in the running to win a Christmas ornament (shown in this post). Comment each day for your chance to win.

43 comments:

  1. I love the shoebox idea! I wish I'd had had when my grands were younger. The anthology is exciting!

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  2. Such a sweet story, Anna! Thanks for sharing and kicking off our launch week. My mom did something similar with stockings. They weren't just for candy. We had small, thoughtful gifts (this is probably the reason I enjoy small, pretty notebooks). AUTHORS, you can post - you just won't be in the running for a prize.

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  3. I wish I'd done it, too, Liz. I figure it's not too late! The anthology was so much fun to write with Melinda and Anna! I recommend it! ::-)

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  4. Mel, I love little notebooks, too. Missed out on a lovely one in a lighthouse the other day because I'd foolishly left my wallet in the car. Thanks for adding the bad news for our delightful fellow authors. I forgot!

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  6. I always looked forward to going to grandma's house at Christmas time. They had 32 grandchildren and couldn't afford to get us much, but we were always happy with what we got. We would also draw names because our family was too big to give everyone a present. We continued the tradition at my mom's house. Only she would have it the Sunday before Christmas so that we could spend Christmas with our in laws or at our own house. She said that way she could get to have us all to herself. I wish that I could be with my grandkids at Christmas, but I live in Arkansas, my son is in the Navy and is stationed at Pearl Harbor. My daughter is in California. We do send them presents, but it isn't the same as having them in my house.

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  7. Oh, Julia, I totally agree about the Christmas joy of having your children all in your house! That's definitely the best gift. Your mom had a great idea for getting you all to heraelf. :-) And 32 in your generation? What an amazing family reunion that must be!

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  8. Anna, What a "heartwarming" story. I love Christmas and Christmas traditions. I never knew my grandparents as my parents were older when the got married and had my sister and me. And she is 7 years my senior. But my mother was a great cook (from scratch) and I've tried her recipes to no avail. They just don't taste the same. She also was a great seamstress and I recall many nights waking up to hear her machine whirring and got dolls for Christmas that came with trunks full of amazing clothes. Santa working overtime for sure.

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    1. Roz, how lovely to imagine Santa at her sewing machine! I'll never be able to cook like my mother and aunts and grandmother, but I'm learning to sew. Like you, I had the best-dressed dolls around. My mom could make anything--including her own patterns!

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  9. My little pinecone gift. When my daughter was 8 years old she had a school project to do, it was painting a little pinecone, she chose RED and sprinkled it with silver glitter. This was a Christmas gift for her to give me. That was 22 years ago, and ever since that first pinecone, she has given me one every year. Plus she enlisted both of her brothers to do the same. Then when she had my two grandkids she had them join in as well. She accidentally started the most important Christmas tradition in our family. I LOVE my little pine cones. It's my favorite present every year.

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    1. Babbie, what a beautiful tradition! And it started ao sweetly. I hope it follows your family always!

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  10. Every year we would go to my Grandmas on Christmas eve it was also their anniversary! Between all my aunts and uncles she had 25 grandkids. She had a money card for each of us and in it was a crisp new one dollar bill. I was so thrilled with that dollar and would go all year to see how long before I spent it. I was sad when I graduated high school and didn't get that money card from Grandma anymore. I still have the last one she gave me with the dollar still in it. Now a days kids would laugh at a dollar but back in the day it meant a lot. I wish that life could go back to simpler times and the true meaning of Christmas. Now a days the kids just want the biggest and best gifts and the true meaning of Christmas is getting lost :(

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    1. I know what you mean, Darlene, but that's why I love hearing these stories. The holidays have kept their meaning for so many families.

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    2. Hit publish too soon! Was just going to add we just need to keep our stries alive for our families!

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  11. I looked forward to just being with my family, all together because we all lived in different parts of the country we always tried to get together for Christmas. There are five of us plus spouses and kids so it gets very big during Christmas but we focused mostly on the children and seeing Christmas through their eyes. What I started doing for my kids was I got them each an ornament from the time they were born and will do it up until the time they leave for college that way when they are on their own they will have their own collection of Christmas ornaments. They love picking them out and putting them on the tree.

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  12. Love that idea and all those memories, Therese! No matter where your children go, they have a little of home with them at Christmas!

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  13. When my girls were growing up I always bought them a special Christmas ornament every year so that when they were out on their own they would have decorations for their tree that would be special. They use them now on their families trees.

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    1. This is such a beautiful idea! I love that your and Threse's children will always have a little of your family's celebration in their own homes!

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  14. I have done this every year since the kids were little now I live in Ia and they live in ca so it seems almost more loving but I buy them an ornament and mail or give it to the family members on Thanksgiving. I am a lover of ornaments collecting the hallmark keepsake since I was 20 so that was almost 40 years ago and I still love it. I lived in a foster home so ornaments and trees were theirs and I never had mine till I was 18 moved in with my grandma and she had a white tree with red ornaments every year needless to say when I got married at 20 I started my hallmark collection this year was a lot harder as I am severely disabled and there is no hallmark around so I had to order a small amt. They are still ornaments and they all represent something in my heart.

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    1. I'm so glad you found your own family, and you've made your own traditions!

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  15. One of my fave holiday traditions that Mom and I still do (now that my grandmother is gone)...Xmas eve we watch The Nutcracker ballet with Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. It's such the epitome of the holiday with the music and the setting and all the falling snow. No Secret Santas here...with only 2 of us, it's kinda a given who the other one is, LOL. Great post, Anna...and yay! So excited about our release. :)

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    1. Anna, my daughter and I are planning to see The Nutcracker this year! We can't wait!

      I've been enjoying our release day, too! Wouldn't make a bad annual tradition! ;-) See you tomorrow!

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  16. My parents struggled to pay the mortgage so they had nothing extra for gifts. One Christmas I received clothes handmade by my mother. A red and green plaid skirt and embroidered blouse; a blue velvet coat with fur trim and a matching hat; and a cotton baby bunting - all for my doll. A wonderful Christmas.

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    1. Marion, that sounds wonderful. I wish I still had some of the clothes my mom made for my dolls. Those are the best kinds of gifts.

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  17. I love reading all the Christmas stories. Christmas for me was clothes and maybe 2 toys. I do miss those simpler times even though we were poor.

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    1. I remember times when my children were younger, and I'd rush here and rush there, looking for the perfect gift, instead of hanging out with them. Simpler is definitely better than that.

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  18. Christmas with our family means lots of "cutting up". My sisters and I don't get together often, but it's like we haven't skipped a beat when you get us all back together. One of my favorite things is hearing my Mom, and her "Giiiiirls" or "Now, Girls!". Puts a smile on my face every time.

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    1. How sweet is that, Michelle? Nothing like a moment back in your childhood!

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  19. Like many of you, my memories are so rich I feel as though I never quite made Christmas that wonderful for my children. I remember French and Portuguese food, and though we weren't wealthy, there always seemed to be lots of presents under the tree. I know that had to have been hard for my parents, but they did it. I so miss our children being close by, but we do manage to get together at other times. I'm already watching Hallmark's countdown to Christmas. Happy weekend, everyone.

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  20. Sorry, Anna. I hit publish too soon, too. Mean to tell you what a lovely post this is. I had only 8 grandchildren but did a similar thing with boxes or basket when they still all lived nearby. Shopping was so much fun!

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    1. Muriel, how lovely that your grandchildren got the excitement of that special present, too! Your childhood holidays sound lovely. I'm a little hungry right now, so I'm especially interested in the food! :-)

      And I'm longing to watch some holiday movies. A friend of had a carol on her phone today. I was envious. Ready for the season!

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  21. We fix some of the same recipes each year. Tradition.

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    1. We always have homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Yummy!

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  22. I longed for big Christmases. There was a decade between me and the next oldest cousin. My holidays were great - being the only young one I got plenty - but there was no one to play with LOL 32 grandchildren. I am in awe

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    1. Oh, Pamela, I loved having a big family. Always someone to play with and talk to, and I love looking at all those beloved faces and knowing they belong to me!

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  23. These are wonderful Christmas memories, Anna! Thank you for sharing.

    Also, congratulations on and best wishes with your release!

    Kate

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  24. Kate, congrats on the release of A Child's Christmas, too! Hope you're enjoying release day, too!

    I've enjoyed seeing everyone's memories, and I hope we're all about to make new ones to cherish!

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  25. The anthology sounds great! Can't wait to read it. Having the whole family together Christmas Eve was always my most favorite tradition. The older kids were married by the time I was 7 so I loved that they came with their kids for Christmas Eve! We ate, laughed alot and opened presents!

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  26. Oh, I can see that in my head! I so miss the clatter of almost 30 people gathered to celebrate!

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  27. As a child, I loved spending Christmas with my grandparents

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  28. I started a tradition of a tree trimming party - friends, family, food, drink and lots of laughter.

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  29. After my first grandchild was born, I started the tradition of giving a Christmas ornament every year to each grandchild. I now have fourteen grandchildren, When they get married or leave home, they'll have their own collection of ornaments for their tree.

    I love having all my children come home for Christmas. Sometimes they don't make it for Christmas day, but they usually all make it here sometime during the holidays.

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  30. And the winners are.... Dianne Wagner, Darlene Holley, and Denise Stout Holcomb! Congratulations! We will be in touch with you soon to get your contact information. Thank you everyone who participated! :)

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