Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's All About The Family

Tracing your genealogy can be fun. Or so I've heard. I'm not that interested in knowing exactly who's in my family tree, as much as I like knowing where I came from. My Aunt Lizzie is a wonderful source of information on my mother's side, even though she was born to grandpa's first wife and mom to the second. Now don't get all like "those-family-trees-from-the-south-go-straight-up-don't-they?"

We can make fun of our crazy. You can't.

Aunt Lizzie, despite being 90 years old, is sharp as a tack. I could use some of that sharpness myself most days. Anyone else feel like they're operating in a fog most of the time?

Anyway, the last time we visited Aunt Lizzie I found out that my grandpa was descended from a Swedish barber/surgeon. Apparently back then whoever had the knife got to do any and all cutting. This Swedish dude made numerous trips between the Old Country and the burgeoning colonies in the 1600s, until one unfortunate trip that left him hijacked by pirates and left on an island somewhere in the Caribbean for a few months, only to be rescued and then hijacked yet again by more pirates. It took him eleven months to make it back home on what should have been a trip lasting just weeks (do you hear the theme music from Gilligan's Island too?).

That was enough for him so he packed up his little family and made one final trip to the colonies where he settled in New Sweden, now known as Wilmington, Delaware. Several generations later, some of his progeny reached Appalachia. Which is where my grandpa came into the picture (and of course my mom and then me).

And yes, there are a few scary people scattered throughout the family tree. But remember what I said about the crazy?

Not sure what brought this on, except I realized last night my mom's been gone twenty years now. Twenty years! I remember it like it was yesterday. I still miss her, wish she could have seen my kids grow up, my sister's kids be born...all the things we've been through as a family in the past twenty years that she's missed.

I had a rocky relationship with my mom which smoothed out considerably after I had kids of my own and started to "get it". But what family doesn't have its ups and downs? My mom loved me; I know that without a doubt, and she did the best she could given the set of circumstances that were uniquely ours.

Maybe it's the holidays. We all get a bit nostalgic this time of year. Thinking about Thanksgivings and Christmases past...

My earliest memory of Thanksgiving is 1967, a few months after the Detroit riots, crowded around a tiny table in a friend's mobile home...Six kids and three adults in a space that got so hot with the stove going all day we had to open the door for a bit and still Moe, the youngest at 2, stripped down to his diaper. But then Moe was prone to stripping no matter the temperature; the kid had a strong aversion to clothes.

The Christmas I received my first sewing machine is the first one I remember with real clarity...the way we decorated the house (we had a silver tree with a multi-colored wheel that turned oh-so-slowly and changed the color of the tree from red to blue to yellow to green, and we used a can of spray snow to create a winter scene on the living room window), the food we ate (this marked the year I began my love affair with Waldorf salad), and the feeling of being snug and cozy in our little house... I was 10 and the sewing machine was a toy, but it really sewed. I found one just like it on eBay today. I'm a few years older and have upgraded to a Pfaff but my love for sewing remains.

So what are your earliest memories of the holidays? Is it about food, the gifts, the place...?

I love the holidays, the chance to spend time with loved ones. It will certainly be a little different this year. They don't celebrate Thanksgiving here, of course, and we'll actually be in Buenos Aires for a mini-conference then.

But Christmas is Christmas no matter where you go. We brought a box of decorations with us, as well as a tall skinny artificial tree. I'm looking forward to spending a day decorating in early December (in time for BooMama's Christmas Parade of Homes! -- did you see the button on the sidebar? Did you? Did you?! 'Cause that's gonna be a LOT of fun!) and then just enjoying the season with lots of Christmas music playing ALL MONTH LONG.

I may not be able to bake sugar cookies with my daughter as we've done in years past, but I can make the sweet potato casserole that's a must at any holiday gathering. We won't be going to cut down a Christmas tree with our kids but I can decorate with the homemade ornaments we've made over the years. There's no snow in the forecast for Christmas Day but then we didn't have snow on Christmas day very often in Michigan either.

We've developed some family traditions over the years (I'll be sharing some of them for Way More Homemade Holidays on November 21st! See her cute button on the sidebar too!) that I'll miss doing with the kiddos. But who says we can't create new traditions? And maybe we'll get some ideas from y'all!


Debbie said...

What a sweet post. I do think the traditions are so wonderful. So is having some idea of your family's past. Oh the screwballs we have uncovered!

Lorrie Veasey said...

I found your blog through Deb's cocktail party last week on Suburb Sanity and decided to visit now that the hangover has finally subsided.... (yes, that was me in the lampshade)

This was a wonderful post: the best kind that makes you smile and tear up at the same time; the true meaning of bittersweet as it applies to aomething beyond chocolate.

I hope you will stop by my thanksgiving giveaway at my blog at

Way More Homemade said...

It is very easy to get sentimental this time of year about loved ones who have gone home before us. Last Christmas was our first without my dad's mom, but I don't think it really hit me. Seems like it's going to be tougher this year.

I loved your train of thought. This was a beautiful post.

Looking forward to the 21st!! :)