photo by Sheri Dixon

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It Was the Best Christmas Ever!

Remember thinking that? When we were little kids and we'd talk to our friends after the Christmas holiday?

"How was your Christmas?"


When I was little, Christmas was magical- not because of all the gifts, although there were plenty of those, but because of the traditions- the big family gatherings at my Great Aunt Nora's house, a tiny house with a big basement where they set up the long folding tables. The "master" bedroom was where the coats got tossed onto the bed and all of us kids (about half a dozen assorted cousins) figured out that if we crouched down on the floor and listened at the heating duct vent we could hear what the adults were saying downstairs.

It was invariably boring and mundane but that's not the POINT- the point is we could do it and they didn't know about it.

Later on, Christmases were at my mom's house and the presents were distributed by the youngest child, who read the tags and piled them in front of their rightful recipients. Then we'd open them from youngest to oldest and repeat till they were all open.

My grandmother would always sneak the next present onto her lap and stealthily work away at the tape till it was almost completely open by the time it was her turn again.

My mother, an expert seamstress with high hopes, good intentions and no spare time, would end up wrapping tangible IOU's- material, buttons, trim and a pattern for whatever she PLANNED on making us.

Grandpa Norman always wore his Christmas socks- one red and one green, and would tell everyone "I've got another pair just like it". Years later, when he passed away, I told Grandma he needed to be buried in his Christmas socks- no one would see them- and she agreed. I'm not sure if anyone but she and I knew.

My first 18 Christmases were the Best Christmases Ever.

Then I got married and had my own children.

Every Christmas Eve was spent with my husband's family and every Christmas Day with mine. In between, I hosted a Christmas brunch for just the grandparents to come see what the kids had gotten from Santa.

I was the designated pie baker and made pumpkin, apple and french silk pies- 2 of each for every gathering.

My in-laws' family was bigger than mine, so we'd all buy gifts for all the kids and the adults would pick names out of a hat between themselves. I did whatever I could to get my brother-in-law John to choose my name- the single guy of the bunch, he had an incredible sense of just the right sweater- all my favorite sweaters came from John- hunter, beer drinker, seal-the-store-bag-with-scotch-tape-wrapper. The one year my husband bought me a sweater it was so itchy I couldn't even wear it with a blouse underneath.

Those were my Stepford wife, good girl, Sunday School teacher, voting Republican years. Family traditions, babies born and growing, doing everything the absolute way I'd been taught to. And I remember them as being the Best Christmases Ever.

Then I got divorced.

I moved to Texas.

The next few years were hard. The kids stayed in Wisconsin and came down the day after Christmas. I was working 2 full time jobs- one day job and one night job. I volunteered to work on the holidays so the other employees could be with their families- MY family was coming on the 26th.

I cooked/served/cleaned up at the Salvation Army Christmas dinner in between holiday shifts. When the kids got here I was able to spend time with them thanks to my bosses and fellow employees who let me have off- and just being with them made those
The Best Christmases Ever.

Then Ward and I got married and had Alec.

We started renovating our grand old house and settled into small town life. Each Christmas the halls were literally decked and the stockings hung with care. Alec loved having the older kids visit and for just a few rose-colored sugar-coated years they were The Best Christmases Ever.

The older kids grew up and got jobs which precluded them from coming down during Christmas, Ward's mom passed away and Ward got sick. A few years we sandwiched Christmas in between hospital stays, but I doggedly persevered in as many of our traditions as I could- the decorations in the house, cookies baked, Santa's arrival- not because I felt like it, but because when faced with the hideously abnormal, maintaining normalcy is a huge act of defiance, and empowerment, and comfort.

And every year we'd look back and see what we'd been through and then at each other- our amazingly fragile yet titanium-strong family and realize that we were having The Best Christmas Ever.

We "adopted" Joe, and now his mom Edna- our family has grown in a completely unconventional yet wonderful way and Alec said the other day, "It's great that we have other people living here with us- it's like our own little community".

Last year today our contractor/our friend Ronnie finished sealing the interior wood in this house- on Christmas Eve morning. That night Ward and I came out to sweep and seal the floors. I'd refused to decorate our grand old house because we were hoping to be moved into the new house by Christmas, but it didn't happen. We moved in on January 4th.

So there were no decorations last year. The decorations were stashed in the rented storage shed- the one we were only going to have a few months. Therefore they were unloaded into the very back corner of said unit...which we found out a few weeks ago when we went hunting for them. For a few frantic sickening days I thought maybe somehow the decorations had been tossed out by mistake.

But in the end, there they were.

And here we are.

My children, all of them, are healthy and well. I'm not doing too bad for knocking around in this half-century+ bag of skin, bones and too much padding.

Every morning, I open my eyes and can't believe we're here, in this house, at last.

Every night I close my eyes snuggled in next to my darling courageous husband who's still here with us.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day- and I already know it's going to be the Best Christmas Ever.

Silent night- all is calm, all is bright. Rainy and cold outside, warm and so very contented inside. Wishing for you all every day as Special as Christmas.


  1. we really love you guys...... Merry Christmas!

  2. thanks for sharing those wonderful Christmas memories...may this be the best one yet! Merry Christmas friend.