After lights and family in D.C., it was time to spend the end of the year with: more family! Off we headed to visit Winston-Salem again for three weeks of family and relaxing during Christmas and New Year’s. It would give us a much needed break while giving Grandma much needed grandson time. As Fin’s birthday is January 6th, we even were able to throw him a very fine 2nd birthday party.
Much the same as how my cousin does things properly, my mother represent Christmas. She is the type of person who buys Christmas ornaments on vacation to decorate her tree, so when it’s time to look over her heavily decorated Christmas tree, everything has a story.
It’s a proper Christmas tree.
More than the tree, however, what I love about my mother’s decorations is the mantle. More than just a ridiculously strong stocking holder, Mom always takes care to spread pine branches around and place her collection of Nutcrackers around the area. The Nutcrackers were annual purchases form when she and my sister went to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker (used to be the Sendak, now it’s the Balanchine. Not a good move in my opinion.).
This year the tree holder broke so she had to string up some wire to support the tree, which were turned into a really nice card holding line. I hope she does that next year, too.
The mantle and the tree combine to create a living room that scream American Christmas. Christmas can get a little hokey and it’s easy to become cynical about the whole holiday season during the build-up to it, but my mom’s living room always represented the best part of Christmas to me
And with so much tradition represented (including a Christmas Pickle, a vital ornament), we have one of our own: the Christmas Sombrero.
The Christmas Sombrero
I’m 6’3″ and easily a head taller than everyone in my family (the height comes from my grandfather on my mother side, not the milkman), so when our living room hosts a massive tree, it’s always been my job to put the angel on the tree.
When I was in my ne’er do well teenage years, my Christmas prank would be to sneak a sombrero on top of the angel in the weeks leading up the Christmas, knowing that everyone else had to get a stepstool out to do anything about it. In the spirit of fair play I never hid the stepstool, but the days it took my mom to discover the hat on the angel always filled me with joyous anticipation. It naturally got my mom ‘s goat, which brought me nothing but delight.
There was no one to place said sombrero on the angel after I moved out and empty nest syndrome turned this tradition into a bittersweet memory. Left to her own devices, Mom started to put the sombrero on the angel herself, where it sits proudly every year. I absolutely love it.
Christmas certainly is different with a kid around. The whole morning really is for the kids and as this was the first year that Fin could start to understand the whole “You get presents” thing, so watching him understand and go crazy for it as only kids can was very amusing.
I mean, look how happy he was to get a firetruck!
My step-father loves to cook and my wife likes to bake, so do you think we had a fantastic Christmas dinner? You bet we did.
The meal was no-holds barred Christmas: Roast, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, all the good stuff. And Shiz made a Bûche de Noël for goodness sake.
With a grandchild’s birthday on January 6th, there was no way we could celebrate New Year’s and leave before the 6th. Grandma would not have that. In her words: “I’ve never missed a grandchild’s birthday and I’m not going to start now.” So we invited some friends and cousins and had a little party. It was a blast.
With the party finished, having spent three weeks in Winston (again), it was time to head back on the road because we were getting antsy. Time to head South!