Wow. December rolls around again...
When I was young, I used to wait with anticipation the whole year for December... it was always such an exciting month. Christmas was around the corner, and Christmas was a big deal for me and my family. Growing up, I was lucky enough to be close with both sets of my grandparents. My mother's parents lived just across town from us and my Dad's parents lived in the next town over. The whole month would be spent planning on the gifts I'd get. As a child, I remember buying cheap little trinkets from the weird sales they'd have at my elementary school - cheap little tool sets for Dad, and shockingly cheap jewelry for mom, or some other weird trinket. They'd always have the guys come in during the month, and they'd be selling these cheap wares from giant metal cases. I was always so excited to pick something out for my family members, in hopes that they'd like it. I honestly had as much fun giving the gifts as getting them. I always tried to get stuff for my brothers that I thought they'd like, but I do remember a couple of times pulling the ole "I got this for you, but I really like it..." move on my younger brother, Dave. He was always a good sport about it - he was always just as into buying the little presents from the traveling cart as well.
My Mother's parents house always seemed so huge to me - it was this older place over on the far side of Minoa, and I always thought there was so many cool little nooks and crannies to the place. I mean, the place had three bathrooms, which fascinated me! But it also seemed so huge because it was always filled with people - my Mother is one of nine siblings... and they all have kids. There were so many of us - and growing up, there always seemed to be more. There was always some new baby every Christmas! We would all gather downstairs, where there'd always be a big tree near the fireplace - and man, it always SPARKLED with the shear amount of presents underneath it. My grandparents always got every one of us grandkids something for the holidays. Not an easy feat! I loved seeing that room all decorated for the holidays - and I recall that there was an old piano in the corner that I used to love to bang on. It's fun, because the house is still in the family - my Aunt and Uncle bought the place, and now they still host the holidays there every year. It's a little slice of nostalgia and holiday cheer - and, all of sudden, we're all grown up, and now it's getting to the point where there's new babies showing up at Christmas every year..... and my grandparents still get every grandkid a little gift.
After we'd go to my Mother's parents, we'd go over to my Father's parents. My Dad is one of five, so the gatherings were pretty big over there. The age spread between the cousins was pretty big too - my oldest cousins were almost a decade older than me and I always thought they were so cool. They were already rockin', hip teenagers when I was a little kid, so I always looked forward to seeing them. My Grandfather was an old, stoic city cop, who could come off as gruff, but was so tender around the holidays. He loved having his family over - I can still see him, sitting in his recliner, with just the biggest smile on his face. He always decorated the house in the same old ornaments - including this giant plastic Santa Claus head that was mounted on the wall behind the tree. I'll always remember that. (My Aunt Mary Lou still has it!) I remember sitting in their little kitchen; they always had Ginger Ale on hand, and I always drank a ton of from these glasses with diamond shaped dimples on it. To this day, when I drink Ginger Ale, I think of sitting in the kitchen with my Grandma as she prepared all kinds of food. I'd also hang out in their main foyer, where she'd always set up a Christmas Village. As we got older, my grandfather set up a room in the basement, where I'd hang out with my cousins Conor and Casey. I miss that house, and the holidays we spent there as children. My grandfather passed away in 1998, and shortly after, my Grandmother moved into a brand new house with my Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary Lou, who now host the holidays in their home. My grandmother still put up all the old decorations: the Santa Head, The Village.... those will always make me think of her. She passed away a few years ago now,. and though it's sad, I always use the holidays to remember and cherish them - they really loved their family so much, and they loved Christmastime. I think it was their enthusiasm that really stuck with me, because I have a real sentimental place in my heart for the holidays to this day.
Now that I'm married, I have a new tradition of spending Christmas Day with my in-laws, and I couldn't have married into a more perfect family - they love the holiday as much as I do. Spending the day with them is so joyous and fun; it makes me giggle, honestly, how perfect it feels. And I have a wife who loves the season as much as I do to. We spent the weekend going out, together, to find a Christmas Tree. We ended up at this really neat little farm out in the country, where we rode a wagon out to the field, and Jordan found and cut down a tree herself! We've spent the last two days decorating it - and I woke up this morning, turned on the lights, and sat in the darkness of the morning, just staring at the soft lights of my tree.... and being thankful for the good things that I have.
Here's hoping for a new kidney, so I can enjoy many more years of this. I've still got a lot of sharing of the season to do for years to come.