The Afterglow, PT. 1

The Afterglow, PT. 1

The house has returned to semi-organized. The wrapping paper is back in its Tupperware bin, and the card table wrapping station has collapsed. We are still aglow.

I declare this holiday a success.

Gifts were opened and appreciated.  I was forgiven for duplicitous selections and incorrect sizing.

I had pre-suffered for not listening closely to Matt- I probably covered 10 miles in 3 malls on a dead knee replacement looking for 32-34 jeans.  The internet turned up only blue, and I was hoping to move him into a new hue.   After a not-exaggerated 6-8 hours of this quest, I found them at Macy’s…a store at Oakbrook that I had not visited for a year.  Green and gray Slim Straight.  YAY!

Alas: Matt is 34-32.

But I DID discover that Macy’s has been spruced up.

It turns out that my lack of love for shopping has been noted: my credit cards at Von Maur and Macy’s were deactivated due to a lack of use.  I can live with that, though I did re-up my Von Maur card.  Free shipping and wrapping, don’t you know?

Steve’s Dad successfully arrived and wove himself into the chaos with far more energy than an 84 year old usually has. We ate dinner as a family on Christmas Eve, and then the babies unraveled enough that I called an audible and cancelled Church.  After all, if Christmas blessings could be observed in a stable, why not give Steve the gift of sweat pants and grandkids? He reciprocated by helping me assemble a breakfast casserole.  Co-cooking: A Christmas miracle.

We were a threesome until 2:00 pm Christmas Day, and then we were given 2 hours of all together time.

I feared this year, because I intended to re-structure the gift-giving to adult dimensions.  I believed that the kids would be sad that the stack of gifts had shrunk to two boxes.  Nope.  They were great.

Everyone loved the magic that our Baby Henry and Mary brought.  Henry received many toys, only to prefer playing with an unopened Coke.  He sat in the mini-Lazy Boy I bought after stalking it until it hit $44.  He did not love it, but he indulged our wish for pictures. I did not activate his nut allergies, despite a lapse involving sesame seeds.  No epi pen, no hives. Victory. Mary mostly slept, as is the custom of a 2.5 month old. She obliged us with taffeta Christmas clothing she was probably uncomfortable  in, and looked adorable in her red velvet Santa dress, complete with fur trimmed hat. (Guilty as charged of impractical gifting)

Nothing happened on schedule, and a certain chaos was observed with the addition of two Grand dogs to the mix.  They declared a Christmas truce, and no teeth were bared.  Except Steve’s. He is a bit of a Grinch when it comes to the beasts. When Walter barked at Baxter, Ron Burgandy’s dog, during our afterglow viewing of The Anchorman, there was little patience for the canine guests.  Turns out Walter also unleashes his fierce barking for bears.  The climax of the movie turned out to have far too many animals in it for us to stick with. In the scheme of things, that is nothing. I snuck them scraps of meat when Steve wasn’t looking.

I am not the most traditional of celebrants, despite my love for all the trimmings. We have taken our Christmas show on the road in the past- to Detroit, Florida, to Christmas cruises. I have never had a Christmas without the company of my family. That is a miracle. It will probably change.

The fact that we once bowled on Christmas Day helps us prepare for the ever-changing spectre of Christmas.  The grandkids will want to awaken at home to be thrilled by Santa.  Parents will not wish the kids to be pre-spoiled by Grandma and grandpa over-giving.  I get it.

I foresee a time when we will travel from home to home, like visiting dignitaries, spreading Christmas cheer and handing out Christmas envelopes and books.  Grandparents are supposed to be practical.

When I was young, my paternal Grandmother was widowed and became a traveler. She bought a teacup for her Grand daughters, and a mug for her Grandson in each European country she visited, and saved them for Christmas presentation.  She eschewed coffee as crass, and wanted all of us to adopt the more civilized custom of a cup of tea.  I guess she wanted the boys to drink beer- she was all German, after all.   Perhaps she was just realistic enough to know that beer is a right of passage. Today her gifts would be viewed as sexist, and she would approve of this progression. She was a thoroughly modern Grandma.

We tolerated the mugs and tea cups, and madly salivated for the $10 bill she doled out at the Thomas and Elaine Joliat Annual family dinner.  The evening would include sloppy joes (she called it Gumbo) and pudding cake, served upon her basement ping pong table . Above, a coconut pirate dangled rakishly from the ceiling, a knife in his coconut mouth. We dressed up and behaved as if we were at Buckingham Palace, because Granny J had no tolerance for impudence. We called her the “mean grandma.” In fairness, it takes a certain no-nonsense attitude to carry on after caring for an ill husband for 5 years.  We were too young to understand her.

Turns out, those tea cups are in my dining room hutch today, next to her sterling silver tea set, which has never (and will never) be used.   Treasures, all.  I now realize how much effort it took to purchase, carry, and keep tabs on the colors of cups she had gifted.  Spode, Royal Copenhagen,Aynsley, Royal Albert, Wedgewood, Delft- they reflect the geographically intrepid Marcella Schwertner Joliat.  She preferred the well mannered English bone china, but she threw in some Portuguese and Spanish patterns because she was a fan of bold color.  So far, in my 35 years, there has been only one casualty.

My Mom’s parents would stop in most Christmas afternoons.  They did not buy gifts for us; they presented my parents with an item for their home.  Grandpa would bring us Fanny Farmer chocolate suckers and a case of grapefruit and oranges he bought at the Eastern Market.  It was the only fresh fruit we would have during the winter, because Mom’s food budget didn’t allow for salad greens or fresh produce.  I’m not sure we got too revved up about the fruit, but the candy was always welcome.

Soon we may be the ambassadors, bringing unexciting gifts, and then returning to our quiet home.  I will try not to be the “mean grandma” to any of my grandkids, but who knows? I have had my bad days, and my knee certainly makes me less than limber.  At a minimum, I am going to be less fun than a bike-riding, floor crawling na-na.  I am going to have to confer with my co-grandmas so they set the bar lower than they have so far.

So- on to next year.  The future will write our traditions, and we will adapt. The abiding element is that we will express love, through hugs, food, gifts, kindnesses- in myriad ways.  Over and  over.  We can never get so tired or harried that the chaos derails or constrains the outpouring of love for friends and family.

It was a wonderful Christmas, cantilevered between our past traditions and the inevitable mutations ahead.  I hope yours was as magical as mine. I have lots more to say, but I had to post so you would know I survived without a meltdown.  Well, I might have been a little bit sentimental….but such is life. Tonight is MELTDOWN night- Steve has declared a date night, and he is taking me to Les Miserables.  I expect to blubber, and praise God for the darkness.  I am an ugly crier. As we all are, except movie stars.

Come back, and I will share more secrets  of a great Christmas.  Some of my favorite parts were the easiest.





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