At no other time of the year am I so nostalgic as when Christmas rolls around. Is it the music? Possibly, especially because I remember when the music played only one to two weeks before Christmas, not one to two MONTHS! Is it the food? Oh, definitely. Gram’s fudge, peanut brittle, cookies… except I get nostalgic for certain foods almost every season – Valentine’s candy hearts and chocolates, Easter ham and Cadbury eggs, May baskets filled with popcorn, gumdrops and toffees, Fourth of July hot dogs and lemonade, and so on. So I guess it’s not just the Christmas cookies, apple cider and hot cocoa. Presents? I like them, but after years of having to do the shopping and wrapping myself instead of just waking up Christmas morning to find that Santa had left all sorts of surprises, I don’t put that much importance on actual gifts.
No, I’d have to say I get nostalgic for the feelings. The anticipation, the excitement, the love – those feelings have been present ever since I can remember, especially the love. There have been some Christmases that were “better” than others; some that were totally different from what I was used to; and some that rivaled the emotions of “It’s a Wonderful Life” because they were so perfect in every way. Each Christmas has been different and changed a bit from the time before, and I guess that is exactly the way it should be. Life is that way, isn’t it? A friend recently emailed several of us high school friends to ask what our favorite memory of Thanksgiving was. It took me a while, but I chose to answer him with the following email, and I’d like to share that with all of you:
My recollections of Thanksgiving are jumbled together with Christmas, mainly because growing up we lived all over the state and would drive “home” to Adel at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thinking about that made me realize there is one holiday get-together that really stood out, and it happened six years ago – at Christmas, actually, but it made me so thankful that I guess whenever one feels that way, it can be called “thanksgiving.”
It was Christmas of 2009. Neither of my girls had been able to be home at Thanksgiving or Christmas for quite some time. Alyssa was in the Secret Service, and had gotten engaged earlier in the fall to Frank, who was in the Marine Corps. They had originally planned to spend Christmas in the Northern Mariana Islands, where Frank was born, visiting his relatives. Ever since Brooke had met Mikkel, each of their Christmases had been spent traveling to Denmark because Christmas and New Year are both treasured family holidays there and it was about the only time he saw his family.
Imagine my joy when Brooke announced that because new baby Molly had been born Dec. 2 and they couldn’t get a passport in time, they wanted to drive to Iowa from their home in Michigan, and was that okay with us? Nooooo – was NOT the answer I gave them! Did they have to ask? And then Alyssa said she and Frank were driving from DC home to Iowa because they decided to make the Islands their honeymoon destination the summer after they got married (May 2010). So HOORAY! I was going to have both my girls, my two boys, and a new baby for Christmas! It would be perfect. And it was! Harold and I cooked up a storm. Harold went to the cabin beforehand to hunt, which meant I got to go to the mall to hunt – for special gifts. Traditionally, I have a soup supper Christmas Eve Eve (yes, the night before Christmas Eve) for all my family: parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, in-laws, out-laws, and anyone remotely related, even if it’s four times removed! Everyone got to hold the baby, visit, laugh and eat. Definitely a Food, Fun, Family and Friends moment.
And then Christmas morning, I got to feed my kids a traditional Beaman Christmas breakfast once again. That was monkey bread fresh out of the oven, deer sticks, chocolate milk – and if anyone wanted, regular breakfast food, but that was seldom asked for. Harold put on a Santa hat and beard and held our sleeping grandbaby. The girls chatted, argued in a teasing way, and the boys put on their camouflage p.j.s I’d bought them and played Wii hunting games and remote control racing cars that I’d bought. Harold got his fair share of playing time, too, and put the Marine to shame with his shooting skills, albeit only on the TV screen. Later we went to Mom and Dad’s and saw a lot of the same fam-damily members we’d seen a few days earlier, but we can never get enough of each other.
Little did we know that in less than three months, we’d get together again. For a funeral. But I am SO thankful that I have that wonderful, precious memory of the last holiday with Harold and my beloved family. Life changes, sometimes it seems for the worse, but the best times far outweigh those. I now have seven more grandkids I love – and a very dearly loved husband in Dave. And each one of you is special to me. (I have in my book how it was to be the “new girl, Becky Button” each year in school) – When I moved to Adel when I was 16, I had no idea of the lifelong friendships I would find there. And if being thankful IS indeed a Thanksgiving, then I have it every day of my life. I love you all! Happy Turkey Day – and happy thanksgiving every day of your lives, too!
Losing my husband shattered my world that year. But it set into motion many changes in my life, and the biggest one is why I have a book written! The love from all my family, old and new, is why my Christmases continue to be memorable, and thus, something to be nostalgic for in the future.
Merry Christmas to all! May every day of the year be as wonderful and loving as Christmas – or whatever celebration you have as a favorite!