Christmas Eves to Remember

Here in Wisconsin, we are hunkered down once again for a quiet Christmas Eve at home. Tomorrow there will be some travel here and there, but for tonight, we are home.

For the past 18 years, our Christmas Eves have been quiet affairs. During my growing up years, our rituals on this night changed and shifted and morphed. When Mémere was living but approaching 90, the activities focused on the family home where she lived with Grandma Annie and Aunt Patsy, two widows and a spinster. But we all converged on the house on Christmas Eve for wine and tourtiere and other seasonal treats and libations.

After Mémere died, the action shifted to my parents' house. On Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day, that was where friends and relatives met to watch us play with our dolls, dump trucks, toy theaters and board games. As we grew older, Christmas Eves became quieter affairs; I always sang with my choir at an agonisingly protracted midnight mass.

But in the 1980s, in the decade or so following Grandma Annie's death, we began once again, meeting at the old house in Frenchtown on Christmas Eve. At first, the gatherings were quiet affairs, often just a few of us seating round the kitchen table, with cheese and sausage and the highballs Annie loved, listening to tinny Christmas music from a radio. As we children acquired spouses and as other friends and relatives were widowed, the events became larger and grander, with dozens of different desserts and cookies as well as cheeses and sausages and dips and spreads and chips and breads.

The year my husband and I married - 1989 - was the largest such event, with nearly 20 people in and out, all bearing gifts and bottles. It was the last, too, because the following year began a series of deaths that decimated our family ranks.

Today, we are a spread-out family, with members in Illinois, California and Texas as well as Michigan and Wisconsin. Our lives are busy, and some years, not everyone makes it back to the Midwest. I live here, just a few miles from the old house; so does my sister.

Every Christmas Eve, I drive past Grandma Annie's house. In my heart I salute it, for those many years of Christmas Eves and wonderful memories of the old kitchen. As I said in an earlier post, I am so happy that Denise, its new mistress, is an ardent cook and baker. The light hand on her shoulder is merely my lovely Grandma Annie showing her approval.

Cherish the ones you love tonight.

I will.

About the photo: That was the view from my kitchen door about 4:15 p.m. last night. It is just that color now as I post this.


breadchick said…
Mimi, your post brought back memories of large gatherings with my father's family. There would be 20 or more adults and all us kids running around inside and out. Now, we too are scattered to the wind and my father is the last son alive. But every Christmas eve I too remember the smells and the scene in that old farm house in Michigan.

Merry Christmas to you and yours
Lydia said…
Wishing you a lovely Christmas and a very happy new year, Mimi.
Mimi said…
Ah, Breadchick, I know what you mean. Sigh. We are pretty much scattered, too. In fact, in the old days, all my mother's sisters and father's brothers lived nearby and were part of the holiday package. They are mostly gone now, and the cousins I am closer to are farther removed.

Lydia, thank you for all you teach your readers and fans about new products - or in my case, "exotic" ingredients.
Paul said…
Merry Christmas Mimi
I am so happy I remember so many Christmas gatherings. Mom was one of 7 and there were years there were 30 people at my grandmothers. Great times.
Merry Christmas Mimi!
Mimi said…
Merry Christmas, Paul and Tanna!

It's nearly 4:30 and I cannot sleep. Guess I must be looking for Santa...
Anonymous said…
What beautiful memories, Mimi. I was just saying that to my husband today....with being an only child and marrying an only child and now parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles gone...there isn't much left to the family that once was so large, filling Christmas Eve kitchens, just as yours did.
The photo is spectacular! What a beautiful view you have!
Best to you.
Kristen said…
Such a wonderful reminder of Christmases in the past...very similar to the ones you describe. These days, with family so spread out, the days are much more quiet and it doesn't quite feel like Christmas.
I hope you had a lovely day!
Christine said…
Mimi, What a lovely post and so poignant. My family, too, has spread to the winds with the loss of my parents who glued it together. This Christmas was our smallest, quietest yet - something I'm going to have to get used to. It makes me cherish all the more those who are here and remember all the more those who have passed on.
Your photo is beautiful. It looks like it belongs on an old postcard.
Best wishes to you and your family, now and throughout 2008.
Jann said…
What a moving post Mimi~it took me back to my early days with the family.....we were a large family and there was always more excitement than the parents and grandparents could handle..the quiet Holidays now just aren't the same!
Mimi said…
Terri, Kristen, Christine and Jann: How I cherish our online friendships!

Knowing we are all experiencing these quieter Christmases is a bit of a comfort, but yet it is so bittersweet...

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