I can tell from all the less than subtle clues the holidays are among us. I love the holidays. Oh, not the shopping so much or the insane commercials where even children are encouraged to overspend allowances they don’t have to give mom a Forever diamond, but I do love the lights, the colors, the music, and the overall feel. When I was a kid I waited anxiously for Christmas morning. I would run into my parent’s bedroom to announce the big day never realizing they had gone to bed just two hours ago after putting toys together with too many parts, searching for batteries not included, wrapping, and then sneaking everything under the tree.
As I grew up I admit I spoiled my children with what I hoped would lend itself to the same magic I knew. I’m not sure it did. Sure, I saw the gleam in their eyes. There was the heartfelt thank you. The jaw dropping moments followed by squeals of delight, but did they really understand the magic?
I was at an event the other night presented by Second Stage, which is a repertoire company that is part of the Murrells Inlet Community Theatre. They present performance from various artists including monologues, one act plays, and poetry. On this particular night a writer from SCWW read some of his short stories mainly about his life as a child and his relationship with his father. That and the songs performed by the flutists made me homesick for days gone by and wondering if the things we hold dear will endure.
I am part of the ‘in-between’ generation. That isn’t the official name. I believe the official name is baby boomer, but I don’t think it really represents my generation. I grew during the 60’s, rose to some resemblance of maturity in the 70’s, started a family in the 80’s, worked through the 90’s, and imagined retirement in the 21st century. Through it all, I was on the cusp. I was between women’s rights when women didn’t usually hold jobs but my mom did, when Vietnam anti-war protested occurred daily while many still recalled the heroic moments of WWII. I came of age when Elvis was king and the Rolling Stones were Helter Skeltor. I was in between the end of something and the beginning of something else with one foot in each place.
In my generation there was family. In my case a huge Italian family who had parties every Saturday night for no reason and it lasted into Sunday where, as a kid, you fell asleep wherever you could push a cousin out of the way and curl up into a ball. Your mom woke you for church and off you went. In family we learned the traditions and none meant more than the holidays surrounding Christmas. The magic wasn’t just in the getting, it was in the giving. It was visiting Grandma and Aunt Ann. It was smiling with glee over socks that your Godmother gave you and actually looking forward to it later in life because it was tradition. It was listening to Christmas songs of Bing Crosby and Dean Martin and Perry Como even through it wasn’t the music you preferred. At the event I attended, one of the songs was introduced as a Judy Garland song first sung in 1942. That was way before I was born and yet, I knew the song.
Is family and tradition lost? Did my generation of in-betweeners do all we could to keep it alive? Were we so concerned with not aging, not being cool, not appearing “old school” that we forgot to bring our children up with a sense of tradition? I would hate to see the old songs die. I’d regret deeply if my children didn’t cherish stories of others born just before television. In the world today, I find myself in-between again. You don’t call on the phone, you text. You don’t drive to meetings, you have webinars, you don’t write letters, you hang-out for video chats, sure it’s nice, convenient but it doesn’t bring the smells of the holidays, the squeals of delights, the laughter of seeing your uncle drink too much eggnog, or the joy of hearing Oh Come All Ye Faithful sung by Duke Ellington.
Recently, I received a text from my son who lives over 800 hundred miles away. Included was a picture of an old ceramic Christmas tree, about four feet high that my grandmother made years ago and gave to me. I left it for him when I moved south and I guess I figured he’d forget about it. Well, he got it out from the attic without me saying a word and placed it on his bookcase. Happily he lit the tree and sent me the photo with a note: “Merry Christmas, Mom. This might be the only decoration I put up but it’s one that means a lot.” That put a smile on my face. I guess he does get it.
I hope you and your family share some traditions this year and hold on, even a tiny bit, to family.