I’ve mentioned before, Gentle Reader, a little family tradition of ours at Christmastime: it involves a few cocktails, some Christmas songs, and having one’s heartstrings tugged so much that one eventually cries in honor of those no longer with us. It’s very cathartic and sentimental and not at all as awful as it sounds. The point is that it inspired me to dig through the actual photo albums in search of some ancient artifacts. After all, it’s not just Christmas today – it’s also #ThrowbackThursday.
I was five when my folks got me a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. I was fascinated; I’d never even heard of video games. My Dad, who’d been an avid hunter for years, was very taken with Duck Hunt, as seen above. My grandfather wasn’t too sure about this newfangled claptrap.
The very next day, Grandpa went out and got an NES of his very own. He was obsessed with Mario for the next twenty years.
My Grandma always encouraged my creativity. She was always willing to get down on the floor to play with me, to draw, to sing, to imagine – every Christmas, there’d be books, building sets, art supplies – anything to get inspiration flowing. Seen here, she’s wearing a paper wreath we’d just made together, and playing the keyboard.
So those were Christmas mornings. Christmas eves, on the other hand, were at Maman’s parent’s house, and it was packed with relations – the sort of scene you see in Christmas movies.
Nanny and Poppo would sit in their chairs, presiding over in-laws, cousins, brothers and sisters, their children and grandchildren.
My father teased Nanny unmercifully for years – despite the hours she spent in the kitchen fixing dinner, baking buns from scratch, making lefse and making pies – Dad always very vocally mourned the lack of mincemeat pie. Year after year – “No, thanks, Thelma – Mincemeat’s the only pie I’ll eat!” – until she’d had enough. That year, the mincemeat had a healthy helping of crow.
When everyone was leaving for the night, Nanny would always wave Maman over to her chair and whisper “Stay for just one more!” We always did. Even at a young age, it was apparent that I was… fancier than the other boys –
-and as Nanny got older, Maman took over the bulk of the kitchen work, and I took over after-dinner cigarettes and drinks while Nanny told me salacious family gossip. I learned at her knee that it’s nice to decompress after a party by going over how things went down, and it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.
We’ve seen very little of Maman through these photos, and that’s because she’s been behind the camera in every one of them. She’s the one who’s done her damnedest to keep both sides of the family together – she’s the one who’s kept in touch, sent invitations and cards, mended fences, held us together and made things right. My mother, Carolyn, is the soul and center of our remarkable clan. This one’s for you, Ma.
Merry Christmas, Gentle Reader, if you celebrate it. If you don’t, Happy Holidays anyway. May your days be merry and bright, my friend.