I can’t now remember how I found Morphing Into Mama’s blog but I’m so glad I did. I am regularly awed by her wit and her ability to put parenting into perspective. She says things that I wish I had the nerve to say and I’m never disappointed when I visit. MIM is studying to be a Marriage and Family Therapist – I’m picturing a cross between Dr. Ruth and Dr. Phil – and I’m sure she’ll make a fine therapist. While I would love it, I’m sure the APA would frown upon her blogging about her clients. (Now there would be some great stories!) Oh well. We’ll just have to settle for her blogging about her family – and, trust me, that is plenty enough. I’m so excited that she has agreed to share her family traditions. So, before this gets too long and I gush any further, please welcome MIM to Childsplayx2. And when you’re done reading, go over and visit her – just don’t mention you’re parenting without a license.
Holiday Traditions Made From Scratch
Because my parents divorced when I was three, I had the unique experience of growing up in two very different households, each with its own set of holiday traditions. When I lived with my mother, holidays were usually spent at my grandmother’s house. Twenty of us would show up at her single-wide at noon sharp, eat with very little talking, clean up, and leave no later than 2 p.m. – sharp. By 1:45, Grandma was looking at the clock, instructing us to wash the dishes faster so she could get to her 2:15 card game at the Clubhouse. Everyone was always happy to oblige since Grandma never served liquor at family gatherings. Not that she didn’t drink it, she just didn’t believe in drinking before 7 p.m. – sharp. So, we were always home by 2:30 p.m., and the holiday was finished.
Our two-hour holiday family gatherings were an implied tradition, along with the coleslaw my mother brought and still continues to bring to dinner to this day. Every night before Thanksgiving and Christmas, my stepfather stops at the KFC drive-thru and purchases two quarts of coleslaw and, voila! My mother’s holiday cooking is complete.
Another important unspoken tradition was the television, which had to be on 24 hours a day – even if no one was watching it. Rather than listen to Perry Como, the television provided us with Christmas jingles used to sell beer, toys, and toilet paper. In fact, one Christmas at Grandma’s house we arrived to find the television sitting at the head of the table. Grandpa gladly took his seat to the side since nothing reigned higher than the television. Sigh. Memories.
At my father’s house, you knew the holidays were close when we’d make our annual trip to Liquor Barn to drop $500 on wine, scotch, cognac, port, and more wine. The decanters and brandy sniffers were brought out and cleaned. The cigar box was stocked. And the chessboard became a fixture on our coffee table for the next six weeks. My aunts and uncles would arrive and the festivities would begin. Marathon chess games were played, the television was completely ignored, and the record player only stopped spinning long enough to put on another jazz tune.
For food, we’d nibble on cheese and crackers all day since my step-mother, while an excellent cook, had no concept of time let alone time management. The day of Thanksgiving and Christmas she’d wake up and write her to-do list, which included things such as calling every single relative she had, painting the bathroom before the guests arrived, polishing all the silver, ironing all the linens, cooking a five course gourmet meal with only fresh ingredients she hadn’t yet purchased, and, oh, what the hell, writing the all-American novel, you know, in case she had an extra fifteen minutes. By five o’clock in the afternoon half our guests were passed out from trying to fill up on booze, and the other half of us would be wandering aimlessly throughout the house trying to remember where we were.
Dinner was finally served around nine o’clock. We’d eat the first three courses like savages throwing as much food in our mouths as possible with one hand while the other hand guarded our plates with a threatening fork or knife. Conversation would finally begin around the fourth course, and by dessert, everyone would be laughing, having forgotten their earlier plans to stick an apple in my step-mother’s mouth and roast her for dinner. Aw, the memories.
When Husband and I had our own children, I began thinking about holiday traditions. I asked Husband if his family had any, and his reply was a quick, “No.” So, we decided that we were going to have to make some from scratch. I wasn’t about to eat KFC with the television blaring, nor did I want all of us starving to the point of wanting to kill each other. Thus, we’ve decided on a few traditions of our own. First, no television. Second, stress will be minimized as much as possible with proper planning. Third, since we cut corners on dinners all year round, a gourmet meal with fresh food is a must. This year for Thanksgiving, for instance, I prepared a butternut squash soup with a red pepper mousse, apple and cranberry chutney, green beans with hazelnut butter, a fresh turkey stuffed with chestnut and sausage dressing, and gravy made from turkey stock prepared the day before. Husband made mashed potatoes and two pies: sweet potato with a three-nut topping, and pumpkin served with freshly whipped cream. Fourth, dinner will always be served promptly at five. Fifth, since we’re not religious, instead of grace, we will take time during dinner to talk about the things for which we’re thankful.
I’m sure we’ll add more to this list over the years, but the point really is that we want to create warm, happy memories for our children. We want them to remember the smell of spices, the sound of laughter, warm bonding moments, and the love of family. If any of you have any additional ingredients to add to this recipe, I’d love to hear them.
You can visit Morphing Into Mama at http://morphingintomama.typepad.com