Saturday, November 25, 2006

family traditions

Since gypsy blood flows through our veins, it has been a challenge to establish family traditions. For many years, however, traveling to the grandparent's house in Quincy, California from wherever we happened to live at the time, seemed to be the perfect holiday ritual. But then they moved! (We are still in mourning). Some of the best Thanksgivings and Christmases I can remember happened at Greg's folk's house in this sleepy mountain town.

Just like the song, we'd literally drive over the river and through the woods (and several states) to get to grandma's house. Upon our arrival, incredible aromas wafted through the open doors as we were warmly greeted. Dinner was usually grandma's lasagna, or sometimes carrot stew, but whatever it was, it tasted like heaven to our hungry crew. Grandpa always had the wood stove blazing.

When the girls were younger, they discovered the joys of camcorders. After the cousins from San Jose arrived, the girls would all disappear for hours, holing up in the loft as they created incredible dramas for the adults to enjoy after the big meal. Lindsay was really too old to be party to such childish events, but the other girls would beg and whine until she reluctantly caved in. The last movie they made was a remake of the Wizard of Oz, with Lindsay starring as the wicked witch of the west. If I remember correctly, Candyce was Dorothy, Danielle was Glynda the good witch (no surpise there), Amy did an amazing portrayal of the cowardly lion and Alisa rocked as the oil-deprived tin man. And Belle the ferret stole the show with her stunning rendition of Toto. (My favorite scene involved Lindsay driving away in our Astro van, cackling "I'll get you my pretty--and your little weasel too!)
Ah yes, those were the days . . .
If we were gathered for Thanksgiving, the day after always involved the intricate ritual of bagging the perfect Christmas tree. Mary (grandma) would make us a thermos of hot chocolate and send us armed with cookies, warm hats, and hack saws to help us accomplish our task. One year, the grandparents asked us to bring them a tree--a challenge, considering they had a 20 foot ceiling. But Lindsay and I managed to find the perfect monster of a tree and felled it ourselves. We even insisted on dragging it back to the car, demolishing anything that stood in our way. I'm not sure how we managed to get it back to the house, but the folks were impressed and we were pretty darn proud of ourselves . . .
If it was Christmas time, some of our more interesting traditions involved Christmas ball hunts and bowling. Christmas balls, if you've never had the chance to meet one, are modern contraptions, composed of clear plastic cups and Christmas tree lights, cleverly formed into a sphere which can be hung from the eaves of your house.
Our Christmas ball expedition, which happened on Christmas eve was eagerly awaited by both child and adult alike. We'd pile into our van and head for East Quincy, which as every knew, was the Christmas ball side of town. We'd cheer the first spotting, and then marvel over the wide variety of Christmas balls there were every year. Orbs of every size and color, some that blinked, some that changed colors. Some that just humbly hung there.
It was awesome.
Bowling was something we did the day after Christmas, after we were tired of eating ourselves sick and the kids were bored with their loot. The first four years this tradition took place, I skipped out, saying that I was athletically challenged (when the truth was I hate bowling shoes and just needed a little "me" time). Our last Christmas in Quincy, however, I relented and joined the fun, expecting to totally humiliate myself in the process. Au contraire--I ended up winning by a long shot, actually scoring 5 strikes in the first game!
I was sad when that tradition ended . . .
As I mentioned earlier, Greg's folks moved a few years back and new traditions have sprung up to replace the old ones. For Thanksgiving, we travel 12 hours to San Jose, eat ourselves sick, eat some more, and we go to San Francisco on Saturday. Not as cool as Quincy, but still filled with family, grace, and God's goodness.
We stay home for Christmas, embracing whatever strays the Lord has brought into our lives, relishing the uniqueness that defines our family.

Holiday traditions may come and go, but I'm thankful that some things never change.
God's goodness and grace . . . and the promise that His love endures forever.