It’s Christmas Eve, which brings with it expectations for tomorrow and memories of Christmases past.
For me, today will end with a Christmas Eve church service and then, when my oldest grandgirl comes home from work, finger foods and family at midnight. I’ve been assured I will be allowed to sleep until 8 tomorrow morning before these teenagers yell at me to get up so we can open presents.
A great blessing in my life is having my children close. My daughter and the grandgirls live next door, as readers of this column already know, and my son, daughter-in-law and their foster children live just a few miles away. Rather than having to choose who to grace with my presence on holidays, I’m able to inflict myself on both families at the same time.
My daughter recently informed me I am now the matriarch of the family. While that makes me feel 90 years old, it’s flattering to know that even as adults, my children still love me and respect my opinion.
I’d say “my authority,” but I long ago discovered I might as well stand back and let them go. I defer to other family members to give advice and admonition. My role is to be there to cheer the good moments and offer sympathy in times of trouble and bad decisions.
My standing as matriarch has little consequence in the grand holiday celebration. I am furnishing a ham for the meal, which seems to be the extent of my participation in the great family feast.
The gift distribution has taken on a particular order: first at my daughter’s house, then over at mine.
After the last of the gifts have been unwrapped, we traditionally enjoy cinnamon rolls and orange juice. I’m not sure why; I believe it began with the girls.
I was informed on Sunday a change in that menu is planned. Well, the juice stays the same. But the food will be a French toast casserole and bacon.
I understand there was a little grumbling in the ranks until the girls learned the French toast casserole includes both bread and cinnamon, which actually makes it an offshoot of the traditional food.
My thoughts as we gather will be with those dear members of my extended family who will be celebrating in their own way in their own homes. And, of course, I will remember those who used to be an essential part of every Christmas, but are together in heaven now: my husband, my sister, my parents, my parents-in-law and so many others I deeply miss.
At this time of year it is easy to dwell on the past and the losses that come as we travel down the path of our allotted years. Yet even as we lose those we treasure, new people come into our lives.
Would I like to have one more childhood Christmas with my sisters, my parents, my grandparents and all those family members whose presence I took for granted?
Would I be willing to give up tomorrow’s celebration with the family I have now that I love and that loves me in exchange?
So come morning, I’ll whisper “Merry Christmas” to those now in the mansions of the Master and shout “Merry Christmas!” as I walk into the house next door for one more big, loud, happy, family celebration.
CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.