Sunday, December 28, 2014

Decembers Documented

I arrived home this morning around 1 AM, seriously telling myself I am now too old for this. When we moved away from the Houston nucleus of my family in 1997, we settled into a trajectory of Christmases in our own home, and family Christmas trips that I would now make across the state as the solo adult, carrying all of the responsibility of travel, and shepherding two small children, as we traversed "over the river and through the woods" to whomever's house held family Christmas that year. 

So, for 17 years now, I have worked to initiate the family Christmas gathering, managed it around my own working schedule, and shouldered all of the burden of taking the boys to be with my family at Christmas time. It has never been easy. Not ever. But it is something I have always been willing to do because my boys, like their mom, love family gatherings, and because it is important to me to be with family at Christmas. I made sacrifices as needed over the years to be ready for Christmas a week early, and get us to wherever Christmas was held, with all our Christmas regalia packed up and loaded into my vehicle.

Every year a different collection of family members are present, and each year is a very unique and precious memory. Over the years, we have grown from my childhood family of six to a family that now contains five family branches: my parents, and the family branches of me and my three siblings. My oldest sister married and had four children. Her children are all married now, and she has seven grandchildren. Her family totals 17. My older sister married, had three children and adopted four children. One of her children is married and my sister has three grandchildren. Her family totals 13. My family of four is the smallest. My brother is married and has three children. 

So, together, we total 41. 41. There has never been a time when we have all been together at the same time. One of my nephews serves in the Air Force and has been stationed overseas. He is now stationed in the U.S., but I now have a niece teaching English in Thailand. Other then the overseas stints, and my boys presently going to college out of state, we have all always lived in Texas. But getting together is hard. Schedules are crazy busy. The idea of everyone being present is both mind boggling and frightening to this introvert. I do best when there are less than 20 of us together. Not to say I wouldn't love it if we were all together, but I am okay with it being smaller crowds.

Even though I have had to make the trip by myself every year, leaving Steve behind to work his retail magic, even though I don't always do well around lots of children, even though noise is not my thing, even though I crave quiet and my own hearth, I have committed to being present for all of these years for family Christmas. It has sure been something to watch it evolve over all of these years. Admittedly, my sisters and I are photo hounds, so these annual December gatherings are duly documented and in the memory books to be sure.  

The first wave of change, of course, occurred when we (my siblings and I) all married and had our own children. It has been a joy to watch my nephews and nieces grow up, and to see my children and my siblings' children create their cousin bond. Seeing my nieces and nephews married now and parenting their own children is another layer in the generational circle. As I sit and watch them with what I call my greats (my great-nephews and great-nieces, of which I have ten) I am taken back to my own childhood and  memories of my aunts and uncles, and I recall the interactions I had with them and how special they were to me. It does not seem so very long ago that we were gathering at my Aunt Ernestine's house for family Bingo, or having a summer reunion at my Aunt Jeanine's lake house or my Uncle Jimmy Ed's home. I treasure those times, and pray that my nieces and nephews and sons do as well.

2014 brought another fundamental shift. My own sons are in college now and the traditional weekend before Christmas was no longer an option when considering their schedules. All these years, we have worked around my older sister traveling to Kansas on the day after Christmas. She began that annual trek early in their marriage and has never varied in her travel plans. All these years, I have worked to travel home to family Christmas on the weekend that worked for her family, the weekend before Christmas. And this year was the end of that road, for now. In my head I understand that perhaps things can't continue. In my heart I am sad that this year it was just me and my sons, my parents, and my oldest sister and her children gathering on the weekend that worked for me and the boys, the weekend after Christmas. Family Christmas was missing a big branch. But, it was family Christmas nonetheless. I imagine family dynamics will continue only to shift as we all continue to age and schedules continue to change.

But, in my mind I will remember the early days, when all of the kids were school age and younger, when we were all together, when the schedules were simple and the days were jumbled together in a chaotic mix of presents, pajamas, and peanut butter fudge. Every family Christmas has been special, but I think of those early, simpler years with fondness, mainly because we were all together. They seem now, as I look back, to be especially Merry and Bright.

Merry & Bright ~ Family Christmas ~ December 2008

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation >> They are masterful at creating Simple Stories (SS) basic "page recipes". When you have lots of family photos, these SS basic SG sketches work so well with the SS grid-like elements. This page came together very fast and is not complex. But, there is so much going on in the photos it works well that way for me.
Paper: Simple Stories
Title: Heidi Swapp chipboard ABC's

1 comment:

  1. Another wonderful layout, Penny. Agreed about the SG SS sketches. I always make a note on those to find them quickly when the new lines come out.

    I find I am having similar thoughts this holiday, for different reasons. It has been a reflective holiday season.