Posts Tagged With: family traditions

this is the Christmas of my childhood

In the process of preparing to move, I went through my little two drawer file cabinet. Wedged into the very back of a file folder was a small stack of recipes.
These recipes are older than I am.
I set these particular recipes aside, put them in a safe place.
You know how that goes…
Meanwhile, Thing 1 has patiently waited for nearly five years for me to present her with the apple butter recipe. This recipe came from the next door neighbor, and is in her handwriting.
My mom made this apple butter as long as I can remember. Thing 1 loved when her Grandmommy would make it for her when she was a little girl. I think this might be her ‘golden ticket’ recipe.

It feels serendipitous that I came across these as we were coming into this time of year.
Advent is sacred to me. This most anticipatory time of year. When we’re enveloped in the spirit of Christmas, filled with love and hope and light.
Having these recipes in my hand at this time of year is perfect because they are absolutely the Christmas of my childhood.

My grandmother added her thoughts to the recipes she wrote out, and in the upper left corner you can see the words: Good Toots Recipe!
‘Toots’ is the pet name my grandparents had for their beloved and longtime friend. Grandaddy always called her Toots, but to me, she was ‘Little Grandma’ because she was small of build.

Little Grandma made these gingerbread men every single year. They were, and remain my very favorite cookie. They always had red hots as eyes, and hard silver dragées as buttons. They snapped in the most perfect way, and had the spiciest ginger flavor.
She only made them at Christmastime.
In the years since Little Grandma’s been gone, I’ve eaten many gingerbread men. Some disappointing ones. Some damn fine ones. But none as delicious as the ones she made.

I’ve been saying to my own baking guru Thing 1, I want to make Little Grandma’s gingerbread men. This is my childhood, I say.

Then I stop for a moment and I think, this is my childhood, and realize I’m actually hesitant to bake from this recipe.
How much of my love for these cookies is directly linked to loving Little Grandma? How much of my love for these cookies is about being excited to spend time with her in her little craftsman house in Clarendon? How much of my love for these cookies is about nostalgia?
Are they actually as delicious as I remember?
Can I just go to World Market and buy some Nyakers Swedish gingerbread men and be content?
Will Thing 1 and I bake these cookies and break my heart?
Will one of the last precious things from my childhood be broken?

That’s my fear talking. My anxiety. My sadness.
I’m sad that I’m the only one who knows what I’m talking about when I remember. I’m sad my sacred and precious Christmas tradition memories are foreign to my daughters, to my husband.
I’m fearful that I’ll ruin those memories by trying to recreate them.

I have to stop and breathe.
I have to be more mindful.
Perhaps it isn’t about recreating as much as it is creating something new from something sacred.
After all, Christmas is about hope.

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it’s time to create new traditions

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know I don’t like Thanksgiving.
I’m not really going to get into the whys and wherefores of why Thanksgiving and I don’t quite fit. Just know this, I love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and that’s about it.

As you may recall, my dear friend and mentor lost her beloved in the spring. Thanksgiving is the first holiday she will face without him. Now, you need to understand she can do it. She can do Thanksgiving alone. She can do anything, and she will do it with a grace that I can only dream of achieving. But she shouldn’t have to.
Her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson are celebrating Thanksgiving with other family. I couldn’t bear the thought of her facing this first holiday alone, so I had an uncomfortable conversation with YBW and came to the conclusion that I would go to her for Thanksgiving. We’ve planned a very Charleston Thanksgiving and I’m actually rather excited about it.
I’ll even get to see my Charleston family while I’m there!

I know it’s hurtful to YBW. I think he takes it personally. I don’t know that I can really do anything about that, but I assured him that it’s not personal. I’ve been close with Jessica for twenty years. Even though she is no real kin of mine, she is my family.

YBW took his mother to the grocery store last week and when they talked Thanksgiving plans, she said to him that she couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to be with my family for Thanksgiving.
I’m ashamed to admit I responded like this, but I looked at him and I said, “Because it’s not my family.”
I didn’t mean it the way it may have seemed, only I kind of did mean it too. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to say, but it was sort of how I felt.

Consider this: I am an orphan who is never around her own children. The only thing I have of my family of origin and the family I created is traditions. But they get lost because one girl isn’t an entire family.
I love the people in his family. And for the most part, they seem to love me. But they’re not terribly adept at seeing past the end of their noses.
I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to grasp the concept of friends as family, especially when I have no family of my own.
I suspect it’s because none of them have ever been in my shoes. They’ve got one living parent, they’re with their children regularly.
My family is my friends. My friends have always been my family, but now that I really have no family of my own, my friends are even more so my family.
That’s just how I am. I know that’s a different concept for YBW’s family.

A few days later, I was alone in the car and had a thought.
It’s not that they’re not my family. It’s that those are not my traditions.
My God, that was the most freeing thought I’d had in ages! And it finally began to make sense to me! And if I could express myself in a way that he could understand, it just might create a truly positive shift in our life.

I came back to YBW and said that what I said surely felt hurtful, and for that I was truly sorry. I didn’t intend hurt him. I told him that I’d been thinking about it and shared what I thought about family and traditions. His family has traditions they’ve been sharing for nearly fifty years. And while they’re extremely important to them, they’re not as important to me.

I told him that it was time for us to create new traditions.
He agreed. He asked good questions. We talked about traditions briefly.
But then nothing more was said about it…

Now is not the time. I’m leaving Tuesday afternoon for Charleston. He’ll be here getting ready to host his family.
When I get home, I’ll be ready to start getting the house ready for Christmas. Perhaps that will be a new way of creating new traditions…with the exception of the “big” tree that goes in the front room. He won’t want to do that without the boys and that makes sense to me. That tree will wait until they come back from their mother’s. But I’m not waiting to make with the Christmas merry. I’ll start the moment I get back into town.

If only there was some way to move straight from Halloween to Christmas and blow right past this obligatory giving of thanks…it just fits me ill.

It’s not that I’m not thankful. It’s that I’m thankful every day.
I’m thankful for the traditions I was given as a child and the ones I created as an adult.
I’m thankful that I have a strong bond with my friends as family people.
I’m thankful I am able to be with someone I love so dearly when she’d otherwise be alone.
I’m thankful that I am strong and have great love in me.
I’m thankful that I am loved greatly.

Categories: love, me | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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