By Heather Spohr
Growing up, the adults in my family put on the kind of Christmas celebrations that you normally only see in the movies. Lead by my grandmother and mother, Christmas was a production, and I mean that in the best possible way. It started with an amazing breakfast and finished with an elaborate dinner and dessert straight out of your dreams. I looked forward to Christmas all year long.
Normally kids look forward to Christmas because of all the presents, but I was always excited about the family togetherness. All my grandmother’s children, along with their spouses and own children, came to our house to celebrate. I loved playing with my cousins, but I was always drawn to the way my mother interacted with her siblings. I loved the way they teased and adored each other, and I longed to be a grown up like all of them.
When I was 10 years old, it looked like we were going to the have our greatest family Christmas ever. My grandmother was making her famous triple-chocolate log cake, my mom was in charge of a delicious fancy ham and every single member of our extended family was present. I was so excited I could barely get to sleep on Christmas Eve! But then on Christmas morning one of my uncles got violently ill and was in bed all day. We kept doing our regular Christmas thing (eating, playing, laughing), but it eventually became clear to the adults that my uncle needed medical attention. My parents, grandmother and aunts sprang into action, forgetting about our fabulous dinner and, seemingly, all of us kids. It was scary to see all the adults so worried.
Noticing us kids looking concerned, a different uncle took us for a walk around the neighborhood while the other adults drove my ailing uncle to the hospital. I didn’t show it, but I was not happy with this at all. While I was, of course, worried about my uncle’s health, I also couldn’t help being disappointed that our amazing Christmas had all but been ruined and I was going to spend it walking around the neighborhood! But then a funny thing happened: I found myself enjoying the walk. In fact, it was incredible! I remember it seeming so magical—the Christmas lights were twinkling, I could see my breath, and my uncle let us walk up to every fun lawn display to get a closer look. As we walked from house to house, my uncle told us stories about when he, my mom and my aunts were kids. Their adventures were amazing and hilarious, and I thought it was so cool to hear about the grownups when they were my age. Up until that point, I’d never imagined my parents as children.
My uncle also spoke with all of us (ages 5 to 10) like we were his equals. I’d never experienced an adult talking to me in such a manner before—I felt so mature and special. In turn, I remember talking to my uncle in a completely unguarded way, and having a really amazing conversation.
If you ask me about my favorite Christmases, that one is easily at the top. We never ended up having the grand dinner feast or a decadent dessert (in fact, I don’t think we even ate at all), but it didn’t matter. From that imperfect situation came a perfect memory: Walking around the neighborhood with my uncle, brother and cousins, enjoying each other’s company. It was a spontaneous moment that filled my heart in a way no fancy ham or triple-chocolate log cake ever could.
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Heather Spohr blogs at the award-winning The Spohrs Are Multiplying.
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