November 14, 2005

Busy Mom on Family Traditions

Busy Mom is someone with whom I can really relate. She’s a Starbucks-loving, drum-playing, football-watching, mini-van driving (okay, so I can’t relate to that), very funny woman. I somehow stumbled across her blog (who could resist clicking on a link that says “BusyMom”?) and have been hooked ever since (besides, you gotta love someone who only writes 84 things about themselves on the “100 things about me list.”). I am thrilled that she has agreed to share her family traditions here at Childsplayx2. I’m already thinking of stealing some of them. So without further ado, I give you Busy Mom.


I come from a small family. As a matter of fact, I’m an only child, so was my mother and my grandmother. So, therefore, holiday traditions were all about me when I was growing up. For the longest time, I thought the various things we did were traditions etched in stone somewhere and handed down through the generations. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized many of the things we did enabled the adults to start cocktail hour on time and in peace and quiet. Seriously, though, I had a wonderful upbringing and the holidays were always festive and full of memories.

Until I was out of college, we spent every Thanksgiving in a small town about 45 minutes from here. My grandmother grew up there, and, her cousin, who was raised with her, and was like a sister, had everyone over to celebrate Thanksgiving. We’d get up on Thanksgiving morning and I’d be so excited about watching the Macy’s parade because the Snoopy float was my favorite. After the parade, we’d leave and drive the country highways to Columbia, where Cassie would greet us at the door. The house already smelled of cooking turkey since she had been up before the sun to get it started. The table would be set with delicate china, shiny silverware and a lace tablecloth, the signs of something special. She would always save a couple of tasks for me to do even when I know it would have been much more efficient for her to do it herself. My favorite thing to do was to use the red handled spreader to stuff the celery (I sure wish I had remembered to ask for that after she died. The spreader, not the celery.), and she let me even though I ate most of it before it ever got to the table. Since I was the only child there, little odds and ends, probably unremarkable to the adults, formed my memories and made everything seem like a grand tradition. As I got older, I groused about having to get up early, hoped we wouldn’t have to stay very long so I could catch up with my friends that evening and I was peeved that we couldn’t go on some exotic trip or skiing like other people. Looking back on it, I now realize Thanksgiving for me was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting and that’s how the holiday should be, even for surly teenagers.

However, Thanksgiving is a little different for my kids. Busy Dad comes from a large family and, since they live out of town, we go down there to keep them from coming here at Christmas celebrate with a gathering of extended family and friends. His cousin who owns a barbecue restaurant hosts the gathering at the restaurant and it is filled with a large buffet of items contributed by all the guests. People come and go all day, much football is watched and, since parts of the family are, um, quite “mountainous”, you may even get to see a dead deer in a truck in the parking lot. It’s a festive chaos that contrasts with the quiet, traditional holiday we celebrated when I was growing up. However, I do make the kids watch the parade with me before we leave on the 2 hour trip, even though they don’t quite get the attraction. Neither way is better than the other, I’m glad my kids get to run around and play with cousins and other family they don’t get to see much. However, we do celebrate Thanksgiving The Sequel with my parents the following Saturday so that we can get the china out and Busy Girl can prepare the stuffed celery. I, however, am still the one who eats it before it gets to the table.

Christmas was a little different than Thanksgiving in our family. It was spent with immediate family which meant me, my parents and my mother’s parents. I can remember eagerly awaiting my grandparent’s arrival, carefully arranging and rearranging the presents under the tree, hoping carolers would come to the door, listening to the Jim Neighbors Christmas album (yes, that is the Gomer Pyle guy, but he can sing. Shut. Up. If you’re too young to remember Gomer Pyle, I don’t want to hear it.) and wondering what Santa would bring. We’d each open one gift on Christmas Eve. I once thought that was a tradition, but then I realized that it must have been started to shut me up on Christmas Eve. After I had left Santa cookies and a beer on the dining room table (yes, I really did leave a Busch for him and it took many years for me to connect that’s what my dad drank, too), I’d go to bed for a restless sleep. I’d wake up the next morning to see what Santa had brought. Santa gifts were always unwrapped and left on the hearth in front of the fireplace, stocking were filled and he’d always leave a chocolate chip cookie for me in a small knit stocking I hung on the doorknob of my room. We’d go to church, come home and open gifts. I’d very carefully hand one round of gifts to each person and we’d each open them before moving onto the next round (thus beginning my control issues at an early age) and we’d open until there were no more.

When I got married, I worried that the little traditions, no matter how insignificant they seemed to anyone but me, would go by the wayside. But, I worried for nothing. New traditions were opened up to me with Busy Dad’s family, and, though they mostly involved too much champagne, I found that I enjoyed celebrating Christmas with lots of people in the house and opening presents was a free-for-all. When we had children, it was a dilemma when and where to spend Christmas, but we promised to always wake up at our own house on Christmas morning. Granted, we may have just returned from the open road a few hours before, but Santa comes here. Just like he did for me, he leaves his unwrapped gifts by the fireplace and fills the stockings. However, he finds cookies and milk for a snack. Times have changed and I suppose Santa should “just say ‘no’” to drinking and driving. We go to Mass, eat a turkey dinner and open gifts (free for all style, but I’m getting used to it). But, we have traditions that are “new” as well. Busy Dad’s mother gives each child an ornament engraved with their name and the year, we read “T’was the Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve and we always watch a movie on Christmas afternoon. Sometimes it’s amazing to think that we are responsible for creating/facilitating our kids’ holiday memories. It sounds like something a “real” adult is supposed to do, but, we look around and, though we sometimes feel like impostors, we realize we are the card carrying adults around here and it’s up to us. However, I do think my adult license must be conditional since Santa still leaves a chocolate chip cookie in the stocking on my bedroom door.

You can visit Busy Mom at


  1. I love Busy Mom. And I’m loving these posts–what a great idea, Matthew!

    Comment by Susan — November 14, 2005 @ 8:55 am

  2. Came from Busy Mom’s blog. It’s nice to hear from a Dad’s perspective. I’m glad to find your site.

    Comment by Julie — November 14, 2005 @ 11:34 am

  3. Got here by way of Busy Mom.

    I had to laugh about the whole opening presents thing. When I was growing up we basically did the free-for-all thing and all the presents were opened in like 3 minutes. When I got married and started celebrating the holiday with DH’s family, my MIL insisted (always has) on the open one present at a time and let everyone see it and ooh and aah over it so that it takes THREE HOURS to open all the presents. So now that I have my own children, Christmas morning at home is kind of mix of the two styles with my daughter basically opening all of her stuff while we watch and then we open our stuff while she plays with her loot.

    Comment by Malia — November 14, 2005 @ 6:52 pm

  4. Nice traditions BusyMom. I did the opposite as far as gift-opening. I went from a free-for-all to gifts getting opened one-by-one when I got married. Give me the free-for-all any day.

    Comment by Barbara — November 14, 2005 @ 7:08 pm

  5. Matthew and his bro were into the free-for-all method.

    Comment by Grandmother — November 14, 2005 @ 7:34 pm

  6. On Christmas Eve, my daughters help mix, bake and decorate a birthday cake for Jesus. On Christmas morning, I light birthday candles and we all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus. Christmas morning is the one day of the year that my girls get to eat CAKE for breakfast!

    Comment by Erin Dillon Wrestler — November 14, 2005 @ 8:18 pm

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