Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007

Christmas has come and gone. The day was intense, emotional, and at times frenetic but nonetheless sweet. We started the day as a nuclear family around our Christmas tree, adorned with signs of Santa's visit; the balloons. I think we are the only hold out on this very old tradition from the Bain side of the family. The tree is decorated with balloons of all colors late on Christmas Eve. I've always enjoyed the new look it gives the tree and the balloons are surprisingly un-tacky. Truly. The tradition came from my Grandmother Bain's family; decorative ornaments were so expensive but balloons were not. In our family we believe the balloons are left by Santa Claus as a magical sign of his visit. At least that's what we told the kids many years ago. Now that they're older that actually help us blow the balloons before the stroke of midnight. Then, they are off to bed.

In past years the Christmas tree skirt was overloaded with gifts, spilling over onto the rug with the larger toys left unwrapped and waiting for eager, energetic children early on Christmas morning. Gift giving is more spare these days when checks and gift cards fit into small envelopes. We don't get out of bed quite as early either. Times have changed but we still have packages to open and enjoy taking turns opening our gifts. This year Chris and Denny put a lot of their unwrapped loot on the table with the Christmas creche figurines. The odd juxtaposition of the secular with the sacred aspects of the holiday warranted this shot of coffee mug, Seinfeld DVDs, a car compass, and bottle of champagne jammed in with the three kings, shepherd and camel.

The family gathering at the Arapahoe house with four generations in attendance mid afternoon on December 25th was festive and memorable but also bittersweet. Ranging in age from the extremes of almost 1 to almost 91 years of age, the group of 18 enjoyed each other's company and a tasty meal to celebrate the season of hope. My favorite memories are of Dad asking Chris to say grace before our meal, listening to Chris's prayer, loading up plates of great tasting food for Mom and Dad at the buffet table, watching flakes of snow fall outside the deck doors, serving up the famous Christmas pudding with foamy yellow sauce, and simply participating in the delicate family dynamic over our two hour gathering.

The pudding, so tenderly assembled in October by MM, Mary, Q and I and stirred by family and friends all over the Seattle area, was steamed to perfection on Christmas Day, plated on a festive ceramic platter, ladled with warmed 151 proof rum and set aflame. The dramatic show captured the collective wishes, hopes, and dreams of all us gathered around the table and launched them all into the far reaches of what I call the "mystery and magic" of the season.

These times are special. But, they aren't necessarily easy. Tradition and respect for the joy in knowing that we are all connected one to another brings us together once again.

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