When I ran into the living room in balmy Clearwater, Florida I was elated to see that Santa had come again! My cousins and I ran to find our stocking names and look below it where our big santa gift usually lay. This particular year I got a bike - one with a bell and fun sparkly things to go on the wheels for decorations. My stocking full of M&M's and socks was also a highlight moment of the year for me. My brother or someone else always put comical things in the stockings as well like slimy gel fish tackle or rocks. It was at least 15 full minutes of collective joy for our family.
When I ran into the living room in balmy Clearwater, Florida I was elated to see that Santa had come again! My cousins and I ran to find our stocking names and look below it where our big santa gift usually lay. The year I remember most clearly I got a bike - one with a bell and fun sparkly things to go on the wheels for decorations. My stocking was full of M&M's with a few necessities like socks and shampoo. My brother or someone else always put comical things in the stockings as well like slimy gel fish tackle or rocks. It was some of the most memorable moments of collective joy for our family.
Many in my family had special Christmas outfits. My mother wasn't above wearing light up Christmas earrings with her frosty the snowman blue sweater (all of December). My grandfather and grandmother wore matching sweatshirts that I had made using puffy paint and each had a huge star in the middle. Considering my artistic skills, I can only imagine they were very "unique" but I felt such pride to give the sweatshirts to them. When I think of my Aunt Nanny and my cousins my mind flashes over endless Christmas PJ sets and slippers and socks with all the jolliness you could picture.
My grandparents also led our family in a tradition of clue-writing on every gift that would be opened that day. For example, " To Beth From Dick, Clue: clickety clack. And she would spend like 10 minutes shaking the box, feeling the weight of the box, and on and on. My patience has always been too low to excel at this guessing game but the tradition led us to a day of lingering and opening presents on the floor and eating sausage balls and oranges for many hours. Our family gave everything we had to make a really special Christmas day. And I loved it.
Once the cousins got older and my grandparents passed away, our joint Christmases became less often. Still, our family tried to hold on to many of the Rowe traditions. This year we faced another major change in the rhythm, presence, and contribution of Christmas spectacular - we attempted to pull off all the special things without our matriarch. Three days before Christmas marked the second year of her passing and the first marker of us attempting to actually carry on Christmas day. Last year we all flew to Mexico, unable to imagine walking through stores and making egg casserole and coffee cake til the wee hours without her. No one was ready to fill in the gap.
Were we really ready this year?... ah, no. But was it time to lead a new generation of Christmases, yes, achingly, yes. Ollie, Bea, Sadie, Hannah, and Mateo need magical memories too. And she would want NOTHING less for them. While I think my sister spent the entirety of Christmas in the kitchen prepping to spoil for the next feeding, I found myself often circling aimlessly. I am not sure what I contributed. Typically, I would be the one to at least buy everyone cheesy Christmas gear, but actually, I even forgot Santa. Seriously. Hannah got zero presents from Santa. Mateo got one and that is only because I remembered Santa at about 11pm on Christmas Eve and still had a present left to wrap for Mateo so naturally, that one became from Santa. But there were no big ticket items under the stockings that Santa left and not even any hidden in the tree. We dropped the key ball.
How on Earth she made it seem so right I have no idea. How the morning sounded like Evie and smelled like sugar and citrus we gave it our best shot. What I am coming to realize is that we can't just repeat the actions of the Rowes or the Wilsons but that we morph what we can within our skill sets and memory. And then we grow it by what comes naturally to the Wilsons, Wilson-Roberts, and Osters sans Matriarch. It aint easy folks. It wasn't smooth, for peet sake, we left our Santa. But listen Ba led the kids in Happy Birthday Jesus song and we blew the candles out on the coffee cake. The memory of Amy's apple pie and Aaron's lamb on Christmas night surrounded by neighbors living in insecure housing with no family to celebrate with ended up making so much sense. It ended up feeling just about right. We didn't bowl everyone over with magic but all the combined efforts and spirits communicated how much we long to create again together. To honor her memory, and to find our new morphed way of communicating what Christmas means to our families.