I am! It’s true. I can’t help myself. Ordinarily I would say that this kind of programming isn’t up my alley. I’m a The Walking Dead, Dexter and Sons of Anarchy kind of girl. And nothing suits me better than a good mob movie, The Godfather trilogy, Goodfella’s and Casino…..fabulous!! Yet, come this time of year……I can’t help but indulge in the Hallmark Channel’s Countdown To Christmas and all of its holiday made-for-tv movies.
Maybe all these cheesy shows remind me of family, the fun, and the great memories of our giant family Christmases. Every year my entire family, aunts, uncles, cousins, step- parents and kids, and the occasional extra family friend with nowhere to go, would gather at my grandparents house Christmas night. Everyone was family! Christmas soup is the main course which is always accompanied by a friendly, yet serious meatball contest. Pies, wine, sparkling grape juice for the kids, and enough oyster crackers to provide plenty of ammo for an impromptu cracker fight are also included on the menu.
After dinner we would all exchange gifts with the names we had drawn earlier in the year. My Uncle Butch always played Santa, having the little kids take turns delivering the gifts to the right person. My grandma and grandpa would enjoy every minute of the festivities. We exchanged names, but they always bought gifts for everyone. Let me tell you, with a family our size, that takes a lot of planning and early bargain shopping to pull that off. It was always personal too, not just some random item you would forget about the next day, but something that meant something to you. Maybe it cost $5, and maybe it cost $25, either way, it was exactly what you loved.
My grandparents have been gone for far too long. My grandfather passed away first. Christmas was still held at my grandparents’ house of course. Grandma didn’t miss a beat when it came to holidays. One of the strongest women I have ever known. She kept up the family Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday traditions, not to mention all the others throughout the year. When my grandmother passed I worried all those memories would be just that, memories. She was the glue that kept this family together, the oil that kept it running, the love that kept it thriving. How do you keep on going when the most amazing people in the universe are gone?
The first Christmas after my grandmother passed away was actually at my house. At the time I was centrally located and had the room to do so. Partially, I didn’t want anything messing up the past. I wanted my family to get together and do the things we have been doing for decades; carry on just like my grandma had, not missing a beat. I have to say it turned out pretty great. Each year has been pretty cool in my book. The Christmas I had at my house and the one at my aunt Susan’s house with the giant cracker fight have to be two of my favorites. Maybe it’s because those were the most difficult and yet we pulled it off with a ton of laughter, family fun, and keeping our memories while building new ones. We have even added a fun Ugly Sweater aspect to our get-togethers the last couple of years. It’s great to carry on the traditions from the past while possibly starting new ones. I have a large, adventurous and outgoing family who, in spite of a few pitfalls along the way, has managed to come together each year making Christmas dinner almost as amazing as it was when my grandparents were with us. It will never be exactly the same, and there isn’t one single day that goes by that I don’t think about my grandma and grandpa, but I think they would be proud that we haven’t dropped the ball.
Those Hallmark Holiday specials lets me relive our great family memories as well as reminding me that even when bad things happen or the people you love the most are taken from you, that everything will work out in the end. Traditionally a Realists through and through, it’s the one time of year a little bit of an Optimist comes out of me. Yes, the plots are always 6 degrees of separation from the last or the next movie; a tragedy, a new hope, a difficult situation, and finally triumph. Predictable, yes, but warm fuzzies nonetheless. So even though these kinds of shows are not my normal cup of tea, I can’t help but feel like a little part of my heart fills up with the memories and love that remind me of my grandparents. And that is a feeling I want every day of my life. Little things like a cardinal in the tree, the smell of peppermint, a large glass of iced tea, an oyster back lawn chair, a game of Yahtzee or hillbilly poker, a cup of hot chocolate or a bowl of ice cream, and Hallmark Holiday movies help keep them close to my heart. A heart that remembers the two most amazing people I have ever known, who believed that family was more than just genetics, it was about those you shared your life with.
Here is a little slideshow of my amazing family get-togethers throughout the years: