The Christmas season can be joyous and relaxing, or it can be nerve-wracking and thankless. I had plenty of experience with the latter when I was married to my first husband.
In the years we were married, we lived in Massachusetts, then moved to Dallas, TX, then to San Antonio, TX, and then to Austin, TX. That last move turned out to be the death knell for our 10-year marriage.
All during those years, I painstakingly bought, wrapped, packed and sent carefully-chosen gifts to his family well before Christmas day. I don’t remember one single thank-you note from any of his family—ever.
I did all the Christmas cards for our families and friends, as well as all the shopping and cooking for holiday meals (except when I could gracefully back out and fly up to my parents in New Hampshire for a quiet, happy and blissfully first-husband-free holiday).
It was a lot of work, and, long before I realized that my first marriage was slowly falling apart, I discovered that, while I was busy trying to keep everyone happy for the holidays, I was ruining Christmas for me.
Now, years away from all of that and having been happily married to the Crankee Yankee for nearly 15 years, the holiday takes on a new meaning. Christmas is all about the love and companionship of family members and dear friends.
When I was a child, our tradition then was to have a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother (whom we called “Ba”) made her fabulous *club chowder. Along with that we enjoyed her watermelon pickles and my mom’s wonderful homemade Parker House rolls. The dessert varied from year to year, but that chowder was the star of the meal.
After that, my parents went back home and I stayed overnight with my grandparents. I slept upstairs in “the pink room;” the walls and ceiling were painted a soft seashell pink. The bedding was pink as well. There was a convenient table beside the bed just under the window, perfect for my book and the cookies and milk Ba pressed on me. Those were happy and wonderful Christmases.
Now, at this time in my life, Christmas has less to do with gifts and cards, and more to do with lovely memories and enjoying each other’s company. It’s the time we spend with them that matters most; the smiles and hugs are more precious than gold.
Our Christmas trees have grown smaller through the years and are now artificial because seriously—who really wants to vacuum up all those fallen pine needles? It’s enough to have a few strings of lights up to get in the holiday mood. I now am the one who makes the Christmas chowder, and I love keeping the tradition.
Christmas these days are cozier and less “gifty.” Being with family members and friends are the longest lasting gifts. The older I get, the more I treasure who is around the Christmas tree, not what’s under it.
*Or “Christmas chowder” as we called it; full of lobster and crab meat, clams, scallops, oysters and fish. It was rich with butter and cream, bits of bacon, and served with a pile of oyster crackers.