On December 9 Jerry and I headed to New York City for four fun days of family and Christmas sightseeing and attending a Broadway show. Several years ago our son Jerry and his wife, Teresa, started hosting a cousin party when we came to New York for our Christmas visit. The party brought us together with the families of my mother’s brother and her twin sister. It was a very special gathering.
And though New York City had some pretty tight Covid rules we were happy to follow the rules. It finally seemed that Covid was under control.And then the tide turned. Covid was back in charge.
We had twenty five of our nuclear family who were joining us to celebrate the birth of Christ and then the next day , December 26 ,our numbers would increase to thirty three as our children and grandchildren honored us with a celebration of our 61st wedding anniversary – the format of which was to be a surprise. Our wedding anniversary is actually November 26 but we had moved the celebration to December because our grandchildren are getting older and work and school commitments would have kept at least five of them from joining us.
The number 26 is very significant for Jerry and me. My birthday is April 26, Jerry’s birthday is August 26, and we were married November 26. And the date we were originally given for the birth of our first child was December 26. With Covid on its 2020 rampage, a celebration of our 60th anniversary was out of the question. We were very touched when the family suggested a 2021 celebration. Since the celebration had already been moved a year, adding another month was no big deal. We loved the thought that the format was to be our children’s surprise creation.
And then came another Covid surge. Should our celebrations be cancelled. It was a heart breaking thought. But there was a big difference between last year and this. We were all vaccinated and boostered. We were so torn as to what to do. The kids did not want us to be sick and we did not want them to be sick. The weather and the fire pit and the heat lamp came to our rescue. After getting our food buffet style in the kitchen, our celebrations were totally outside, on the patio.
Our 19 grandchildren range in age from 14 to 29. There are of course no longer any Santa Claus believers. and that’s okay because it allows for the focus to be on the spiritual meaning of Christmas. I love our manger scene – a gift from my mother in the 1980’s. It is the second manger scene we have had in our married life. We retired our first when we got the manger gift from Grandma McCloskey. Because we wanted our children to be familiar with the manger and comfortable with it, we used to let them play with the various pieces. By the early 80’s most of the pieces had lost vital parts. That’s when my mom stepped in with her gift.
As I mentioned in a previous Christmas blog the Advent wreath houses the first decoration that Jerry and I bought for our first married Christmas. It is a sweet baby angel who is definitely showing her age, but then perhaps we are too.
This year’s Christmas tree is the smallest we have ever had. We had plans to go small because doing decorating justice to a tall tree gets a bit harder as the decorators get older. But this tree is small. When we returned from our New York adventure late on the 12th it was one of the few trees left for purchase. And actually as the days have passed I have gotten very fond of the tree. We placed it on a small table that we covered with a green cloth. Instead of the two or three strings of lights, one was more than enough. The tree proudly shows off the few decorations that we picked to place on it. My favorite is the Christmas star that the children made in 1976. Each of the children decorated one of the spikes of the star. The star is rather fragile now but still looks rather regal as it sits atop our tree.
Over the years we have collected many children-made decorations. They are now on various pictures or windows or trays throughout the house. For the first time, all decorating was done with an acknowledgement that it had to be easy for us to put up and easy to take down. Our children would gladly help us with this task but they have their own homes to tend to. As one of our grandchildren pointed out, when it is time to remove this Christmas tree we will be able to carry it out just holding it with one hand.
The priest pointed out at Mass today that we shouldn’t be in a rush to take down Christmas decorations. They should be up for at least another week. Enjoy them. Reflect on the various memories they invoke. Reflect on the spiritual meaning of this time. Sometimes I think it is the American way to rush from one holiday to the next. As we get older we learn, we should learn to savor each day.
A slight bump in our holiday festivities was that a few days after our anniversary celebration I had an acute Afib attack – my 4th in about the last two years. It ended me up in the emergency room – not the place you want to be during Christmas week or actually at any time. Fortunately their cardiac protocols are very good and after a few hours husband and I headed for home.