Monday, January 01, 2007

A Family Christmas

This Christmas reminded me how fortunate and blessed I am to be a part of such a special family, one bonded not only by blood, but also by a lot of love. Grandpa made a speech this year, a first that I know of, and he truly made an impression on everyone. He did his best to get the right words (with Alzheimer's affecting his mind and Parkinson's affecting his physical abilities, it was a feat to get the words out), and I doubt anyone could have left the family as touched. He spoke about family, about losing his father as an infant and never knowing what it meant to have a father or see life through his father's eyes. Grandpa's only living relatives are his wife, children, grand- and great-grandchildren who were all there this year. For the life of me, I can't remember all of his words, but I do know that his message was that of love, of family, and about how special our family is because of our bond. We don't have that "once in a lifetime" love from the movies, but we definitely have that everyday, all-around-you, wholly unavoidable love. We didn't exchange presents this year, but I think everyone walked out of our Christmas gathering a richer person. Grandma and Grandpa instilled in their children a strong sense of "family," which each of their children passed down to my cousins and me. Of all the mental snapshots in my head, the one of silence after Grandpa had spoken, looking at everyone take in his message, a few tears, and a room full of selfless love, has a special glow to it.

Of course, we had a traditional gathering in many other ways: there was way too much good food, mostly cookies and sweets, and perhaps a few bottles of wine. Grandma tried to rope me into a little song and dance routine like my cousins and I always did growing up, but I had conveniently left my piano music at home (unintentional, honest). We played games in the garage, talked and ate, and ate and talked. Grandma fingered all of the food, Grandpa dozed in his recliner, there wasn't enough seating, the house got too hot, and we took a TON of pictures.

I think my all-time least-favorite family tradition is the photo shoots. Each person would have to stand with their spouse or parents, then perhaps a different pose with the same people, and then the siblings-only line-up, then the generational pictures. The worst was with my cousins. Our parents would make us line up by height, then by weight, then by shoe size, hair color, eye color, by age, and by gender. We'd have to move and pose for each camera, "look at Grandpa, now look at Aunt so-and-so, now at the couch, and now at your uncle snoring in the chair." We'd have to move in front of a new background and do it all again. And the worst part? We'd always have to execute this elaborate tradition before opening presents. Yes, in case you were wondering, the pictures are really of my cousins and me, probably four out of ten years. Sadly, we didn't take one of these this year...

To health, to happiness, and (most importantly) to family, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. I wish you all the best.

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