QUOTE (elphaba2 @ Dec 5 2010, 04:22 PM)
I don't have a ton of warm fuzzy Christmas memories--we stick to tradition so tightly I think in part because it creates the effect of a continuous warm fuzziness rather than discrete memories. But I thought of one last night--when I was a kid, I got obsessed with making snow taffy, taking warmed-up maple syrup and pouring it over snow. I have no idea where this idea was introduced to me. Maybe some rascally quebecois, or maybe Future Me dropped in all "yo shorty, this stuff's delicious, this tire d'érable stuff". I don't know! But around Christmastime I'd pester and pester and pester my parents to make snow taffy, and they always said no, until one year. We had a huge fluffy blanket of snow outside, and I got to go out with my dad and scoop up two big baking pans of the stuff, and we all stood around in the kitchen nomming delicious maple candy while the snow fell outside.
side note: i don't understand how anyone can dislike snow. snow-related things, like shoveling? yes, I understand. But how can you dislike gorgeous little fairy-dust falling from the sky? i am a very confused elphaba in this regard.
Little House On The Prairie is the only other place I have heard people making maple-syrup-in-snow. It always sounded like an awesome thing to do, but we never got enough snow to do it.
My Christmases are split into three. There are those prior to my granpa's [sic] death, those after but before my parents' divorce, and then those after the divorce.
I was 9 when my granpa died, but as with most early childhood memories, it feels like there were more times than that. Christmas would be waking up stupidly early to open our stockings- my older brother, older sister and I- then watching christmas morning tv in the playroom and eating chocolate until 9am when we could finally
wake up our parents. They'd get up, we'd have breakfast, open our gifts then head over to my (maternal) grandparents' house where we would swap gifts with our cousins and uncles/ aunts. Big dinner, then afterwards (whilst the adults were doing the washing up) the kids would create a play, dress up and then perform it in the lounge. The only one I properly remember was The Animals Of Farthing Wood- I remember wearing a card fox-mask- and being told by my sister to stay at the side because I couldn't remember anything I had to say. We would go home, tucked up in the back of the car in the blanket that was always over the back of granpa's armchair, and would always fall asleep before the 20 or so minute car journey was over. It seemed like such a treat, even at the end of a day full of gifts and rich food, to have granpa's blanket to take home and borrow until we saw them next.
Boxing day would be stressful and hellish, but more on that in a minute.
When my granpa died, my granma didn't "do" Christmas at her house anymore. She would maybe have a small christmas tree in the dining room window with satin baubles and thin, wirey tinsel but it was only to hang chocolates off and be a display for people walking past.
Christmas day would either be the aunts and uncles and cousins at their respective houses and have some family over, or my granma would choose whose house she would be at on Christmas Eve/ Day/ Boxing Day (three siblings' houses to choose from).
From this time, I remember mostly the Christmas Days/ Boxing Days when my dad's parents and grandmother would come over. We always had seen them during the holidays, but for some reason this era remembers them more- possibly because I was far more aware of the tension between my dad and his parents. His mum had left his dad with their two sons when my dad was in his teens. I have never met/ had contact my paternal uncle; he was always described as not being nice and there were stories of him having stolen things when he used to stay with my parents. There was a lot of resentment in my dad towards his mother, and this seemed to surface most at christmas when they would come over- granny, grandad (her second husband) and nanny (my dad's grandmother). Nanny always drooled from the sides of her mouth, was wrinkly with very pale eyes, walked with a zimmerframe and her house used to smell of cabbage and poo. She used to wear incontinence pants, but instead of throwing them away (they were disposable) she would wash them. She seemed so incredibly old, but she was only in her 80s (my granma is turning 90 in January and doesn't seem as old as Nanny ever did). Grandad always seemed to have piles and had to sit on a cushion- which would then be thrown between us kids, when they left, with squeals of "BUM CUSHION!". My dad would get a very short temper, smoke more, and shout at us if we weren't being helpful enough. My mum would go between being annoyed at him for being so stressed and comforting to us, and comforting him and yelling at us to go entertain the guests while they "hid" in the kitchen and cooked.
One year, the power cut out and my siblings ran out upstairs before I could. I was left to play Old Maid and Rummy with nanny for 3 hours straight.
After my dad left, Christmases were fun again. My granma would always come to stay on Christmas eve and would sleep downstairs on the sofabed. My little brother would wake up at stupid o'clock and take his stocking downstairs to my granma where they would open theirs together (my mum makes up my granma a stocking too). Still early, but a bit later, my brother would come upstairs and wake me up- I'd open my stocking (with his help) with them downstairs. After getting some tea sorted, I would go wake up my older brother. He had a tradition with his friends of going to the pub on Christmas eve and getting very drunk- so waking him up was done as smugly and noisily as possible, with our little brother instructed to jump on the bed. After the initial shock of being woken up, I'd pass my (older) brother his cup of tea and pint of water, and take my little brother downstairs to watch some TV after calling out "Merry Christmas!" to my sister (who usually had a boyfriend in her room and was left to get up on her own accord) and mum and step-dad and telling them their tea was downstairs. We would all convene downstairs after a while, exchange hugs and kisses, brew some coffee, and sit down to Breakfast. It deserves a capital: my mum would spend Christmas Eve making bagels and spiced muffins, and in the morning my step-dad would make scrambled egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, sausages, black pudding and it would be washed down with buck's fizz made with orange and raspberry juice. After breakfast, presents would be opened and we would all take our time to shower, get dressed and have some time to just relax. Christmas dinner would be prepped by the whole family- apart from older brother who, being a chef, very often had to work until the evening- sat infront of the TV watching christmas films or listening to music, with the cats sat on the windowsil watching everything and waiting for treats. The meal would be eaten in the evening with everyone together- my brother when he finished work, boyfriends and girlfriends, and for the last couple of years we've had a family friend and her two sons over too.
Boxing Day would be spent at my step-dad's parents' house. Long story cut short: step-dad is an old family friend and we would visit his parents' house during the festive season so being at theirs feels natural and not weird-extended-family-oddness.
At the end of what seems like a pretty long and maybe too-sad-for-this-thread explanation: Christmases have gone from being childhood bliss, to stressful and sad, to being happy and good again. Which is what I wanted to say, I guess.
Except my granma's death looms at me from the future and I don't know how I will deal with it. Just typing this is causing me to well up, and she is still alive, healthy and kicking. I'm rubbish at this happy thread... sorry.