Some said this may have been the best Christmas in years. Folks sat around the dinner table literally for hours telling stories of past Christmases.They ranged from my Mother’s own childhood memories, to the spirited banter between the first and second cousins of the Ponder/Beall side of our family. All were all present and accounted for this Christmas of 2017.
Earlier in the evening, I had asked everyone to write down a special Christmas memory or two from the past to share the next day at the main Christmas meal. I think this request helped jumpstart a delightful evening of conversation. However, the fact that the last of the first cousins have now turned 21 and are graduating from college this year also might have caused the conversation to change a bit from previous years.
Two of those first cousins became engaged this year and are bringing into the family new traditions and memories. Things like Chex Mix and cheesecake on Christmas morning are new to me, but are great traditions that have their own long and storied history.
The second cousins are still young enough to get bug eyed when they receive that certain present they wanted. They may like giving presents, but they are still more focused on what they will receive. But the first cousins now see the world differently, especially those that already have their own children.
One family member said they didn’t really understand the joy of Christmas until they could share it with their own children. They have become a giver rather than a taker, or maybe more appropriately a sharer rather than a receiver. Interestingly, a comment was made that they could better appreciate the roles their own parents and grandparents had in their life.
There was no television on as we talked. No iPhone was in use as everyone communicated the old fashioned way and just talked about their shared joint memories. It was one hour and then another and another. At that point, I realized these reminiscences were part of something special and would become a memory for all that were there.
It was somewhat of a transitional moment as finally the last of the first cousins had made it to the adult table. That is not literal, as we have long passed the time where every adult could eat at the same table. However, after the meal every adult sat around the table and shared great conversation.
At some point, the white paper tablecloth became a family tree. Names were written on the cloth and shared with some of the in-laws. A contest was held to see which family name was used most frequently. The two top winners were Evans and McCageor.
Never in my life have so many younger members of the family talked so much about our family tree. Late night texts were sent to our West Coast cousins to help fill in the blanks on the youngest members of their branch of the family tree. There were even a few names that were real surprises.
Today we will have the official Christmas Dinner. Most of the selections will be traditions themselves, some mainstays for 50 years or more. There will be four cakes. I have sampled all four and it will be tough to decide which one or two I will have for dessert.
We will exchange gifts and at least once, someone will mention my own Grandmother Catharine, who was a notoriously slow gift opener. She would first write down the name of the person giving the gift on a piece of paper so she could write a proper thank you note. She folded the wrapping paper so it could be used the next year, and she always collected all the ribbons and bows. How times have changed.
One thing that hasn’t changed in my lifetime, is the family standing and holding hands while we give thanks for our health, our blessings, our food, and for the birth of Jesus Christ. We will do that again today reminding young and old of the true meaning of Christmas.
My Christmas wish for you is that you find joy in the memories of your own Christmases past, and that new memories will be made this year as well. Merry Christmas to all.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org