Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Traditions, Both New and Old

Days Gone By (Not Our Real House)
It is still Christmas Eve in the U.S. as I write this and while Uncle P celebrates Christmas as a secular holiday in which we acknowledge, spend time and share gifts with those we love, for many it remains a deeply religious holiday celebrating the birth of their 'savior.' And since this isn't a post about religion, I'll leave that alone and get to the point.

While venturing out late in the afternoon to get a bottle of wine for tomorrow's dinner, I was struck by how the Holidays (like most of life) has changed over the years. Early Christmas memories evoke the many toys and gifts my mother's mother gave us each year, much to our father's consternation. The schadenfreude she derived from his jealously must have been some powerful juju! After she'd had a particularly good year in tips (she was a barmaid), our house was literally filled with presents and I'm surprised Dad didn't have a apoplectic stroke on the spot! At some point "Grandmom Cookie" (so-called because of her always full cookie jar) started spending Christmas Eve with us and we would open her presents then and Santa's and Mom and Dad's presents on Christmas morning. After she passed, we started opening all of our gifts on Christmas Eve. By then I was in college and working part time and Christmas Eve soon evolved into an open-house event where friends and co-workers came and went all night long, I still wonder how we fit so many people into that tiny house. I moved in and out of the house over the years following, but always managed to spend Christmas Eve there. New traditions for the evening continued to evolve after my parents divorced and other folks came into and/or left our lives. For a solid 10 years, Christmas Eve meant broasted* chicken from Chicken Holiday; Southern Comfort Manhattans; two embarrassing piles of presents; shrimp cocktail  and my rock, K. 

That changed again when Mom passed away last October and I spent Christmas Eve with my sister and BIL in Florida. The night before, K and M came over for chicken and such. And while we had a good time, the food wasn't up to their usual standards (I blame a different staff). So this year, even though I'm staying in PA, I decided to cook. On Sunday I made a lasagna and a Caramel Pumpkin Cream Cheese cake. Monday night I steamed and peeled a pound of shrimp and Tuesday night reheated the lasagna; glazed the cake and made cocktail sauce while frying up some battered green beans. Thank goodness M got here early, as I quickly dispatched him on a candle lighting mission. K arrived soon after and then lots of food and drink were consumed, presents were opened and much laughter was shared. 

While it was the first of several similar holiday experiences to come over the next few weeks, last night's Christmas Eve Eve has become what I hope will continue to be a new holiday tradition. For a while, at least. Until things change again, which is inevitable. Cultural traditions may seem steadfast and unchanging, but they are simply slower and less fluid than personal traditions.

I continue to be in awe of the family who have chosen me to a part of theirs, as much as I have chosen them.  K, Q, Dale, M, D and so many others never let me forget that I am not alone and never will be. And there's my astonishing sister. Strong, smart and always supportive, I can only hope you have a sibling who is half as amazing as she is (and yes, it's Christmas! I'm allowed to get gushy!). If you have even half the love in your life as I am blessed to, you know what I mean.

I have received (and will continue to do so) some very cool gifts (Mia's incredible "Zombie Batman" figurine got some stiff competition from Mary & Phil's Nightmare Before Christmas fleece and my sister's standing plush Mickey Skellington - all three of which are rendered in B&W).

None of that stuff, as cool as it may be, really matters.  Like all of us, these things will be dust in a thousand years. What matters is the love we share here and now. I guess what I'm saying is I am grateful for everyone who cares about me and bothers to read my nonsense. Be kind to one another. Know the difference between what does and doesn't matter. Give money or time to a charity that speaks to you, when and if you can. Smile at strangers. Say "Please" and "Thank You." Hold the door for the person behind you. Open the door for the person coming out ahead of you. Acknowledge those who do the same. Share the belief that most people are as good, but no better than, you. Never assume anyone is evil. Help people. Tell those you love that you love them as often as you can. Enjoy the things you have, but take nothing for granted. Enjoy your life. It's the only one you have!

Merry Christmas, my friends and readers! 

More, anon.
Uncle P.

*Pressure fried with no coating

Zombie Batman from Mia
Mickey Skellington from Barbara 

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