Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | December 3, 2011

Gratitude I

The holiday season that ends the calendar year often focuses on family.  Many of the bloggers I read have recently posted about family and family celebrations during the holiday season.  I, too, am very grateful for my family, but I have very few traditions to draw upon.My parents both had Dickensian childhoods, it is nearly unbelievable that they grew up in the 20th century.  My father was supposed to be the daughter that arrived two years after his birth.  A fourth son, he was seen as completely superfluous.  My mother was the youngest daughter in her family; in the Southern tradition I thought had disappeared by the end of the 19th century, she was marked to stay with her parents and care for them until their death.  To that end, she was taught early how to run the household, standing on an orange crate to cook and wash dishes at four years old.

My mother and father met on a blind date and married within a year.  Because my father was an Irish Catholic from Massachusetts and my mother a Southern Baptist from Georgia, both of their families summarily disowned them.  My mother’s family went so far as to obliterate her name from the family Bible, because  she had abandoned her mission to stay with her parents and not marry until after their demise.  Eventually, some members of both families had some contact with our family, but for most of them, it was limited in both time and warmth. It left a legacy of a real lack of warmth among my own siblings, which is something I realized only in contrast with other families.

Also, my parents seem to have very little tradition to call upon. My father has resisted all my questions about holiday family traditions; my mother has been only slightly more informative, saying that she often got nothing but an orange for Christmas. Because my mother then spun into her “you ungrateful children” speech at that point, I never asked for more details.  Given these deficits, my parents tried to give us children the American dream holidays.  We rarely had a turkey for Thanksgiving, due to the cost, but my father did relax that day.  Christmas Day was a bigger deal, with  presents under the tree for the four children.  I did notice we never had any other family around, like all my schoolmates did.

Due to this upbringing, I really didn’t bring any holiday traditions to my married life; in my first marriage, I played along with traditions I didn’t feel inside.  When I married my second husband, we worked to create traditions together, melding his traditions with my dream holidays. We went through the common tug-of-war between the families, whom to visit when, whom to eat with, whom to stay with if we had travelled.  The situation was complicated by my daughters having their own traditions, as well as another set of grandparents, aunts, and uncles to visit. Thankfully, it got much easier as the girls became older and made their own decisions about the scheduling, rather than being pulled so many different directions.  Even when they spent less time with us, I felt better knowing they were making the decisions.

Perhaps because of my background, family is very important to me.  I don’t tell them often enough how important they are to me.  Some of that reticence is due to my teenage sons, who flee emotion as if it were hydrofluoric acid, but sometimes I take all of them for granted.

I am grateful for my sons, who defied all medical opinion to exist, appearing after three doctors had told me I could not have children.  They helped me learn how to be a mother to alien creatures, who didn’t act at all like their sisters. Furthermore, I had met my daughters when they were 5 and 3, so 0-3 was uncharted territory.  My sons laid to rest any nature versus nurture discussions I had in my mind; their drive and fearlessness taught me how to take risks, while making my face pale with fear.  They put up with my inability to help them with math and physics homework, as well as my crying through nearly every movie I took them  to see.  Well, not Pokemon 2000.

I am grateful for my daughters, who accepted me as a second mom, and weathered my learning to walk the tightrope, and how to be that second mom. Recently, one of my sons-in-law paid me one of the best compliments I’ve gotten.  He told me that the way I accepted and loved my youngest daughter showed her how to love and accept his two children.  He said she might not have married him had she not grown up with me. It brought me to tears when he told me, and it does so now while writing it.

And I am grateful for my husband, who puts up with my weird mental glitch, where I point right and say left, especially annoying when giving directions in the car; follow the hand, not the voice, is the trick.  He accepts my ADD as well as my Irish temper; he glories in my nerdiness, and thinks I’m still as interesting as I was when he met me so very long ago.

To all of you, thank you for keeping me sane, human, and giving me the time and the material to write.

And now for the envelope. . .

Lena Corazon honored me several weeks ago with the Versatile Blogger award.  I also received this award from L.S. Engler several months ago *blush*, and I am finally thanking them both publicly for the honor.  I am supposed to divulge seven random facts about myself, as well as pass the award on to fifteen more bloggers.  I have been waiting for inspiration on the 15 bloggers, and it is not forthcoming,  As this is the season for gratitude, I am going to tweak that last part a bit.

First, thank you so very much for the award, Lena and L.S.  I am honored that you think that I am a versatile blogger.  My Shakespeare professor in college called me “scattershot”; I do prefer “versatile.”

The seven random facts about me, in no discernable order, except that the sixth leads to the seventh:

1. I have always wanted to learn piano.

2. I always wanted blue eyes, like my father, so that I would look Black Irish.

3. I sing tenor, but only when I’m alone. During the holidays, I listen to Handel’s Messiah, and sing all the parts, even the basso.  Actually, I can handle the basso better than the soprano.

4. I can remember numbers far better than names.

5. I used to knit during classes in college, until one professor told me to stop; now I knit at work meetings and conferences.

6. I grew 10 inches taller in eight weeks the summer between fourth and fifth grade.

7. Because of the above, I still think of myself as tall, although I’m 5’3”. I often catch a glimpse of myself in windows while walking down the street and wonder who that short chick is.

Next, I would like to thank the people who follow my blog.  I noticed L. S. Engler doing this, and thought it was a nice way to thank my followers.  Since I am starting several months after beginning a blog, I won’t do an entire list in this post, but I will mention everyone during the month of December. I’ve included some information about their blogs, if they have one.

Thanks to all of you for your interest in my blogs!

Fallon Brown posts about family, knitting, and her journey as a writer, at http://fallonbrownwrites.wordpress.com/

Sonia Medeiros, whose tag line is taken from one of my favorite J.R.R. Tolkien poems, blogs about writing at http://doingthewritething.wordpress.com/

L.S. Engler, who juggles more writing and reading projects than most people i know, blogs about writing, posts book reviews, and generally muses on life at http://lsengler.wordpress.com/

P. A. Woodburn  is concentrating on writing her novel, not blogging, at the moment.

Cat von Hassel Davies writes about reading and writing at http://www.catrambles.com/

Rebekah Loper has several blogs; her writing blog is at http://blackanddarknight.wordpress.com/

Pam Hawley also has a great tag line:“There’s a freak show on my stage.” She blogs at http://hawleyville.wordpress.com/

Catie Harrell writes about writing and working on her first novel at http://catieharrell.wordpress.com/

Claire McA writes book reviews and other musings from the south of France (sigh) at http://clairemca.wordpress.com/

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Responses

  1. Thank you for the mention and interesting to read about holiday traditions, they are often required to go through a change when families transform in some way, as they inevitably do through the generations. Not being around family can be both liberating and challenging, but I try to maintain some joyful traditions as well as incorporating new ones – I have not yet adapted to the french tradition of celebrating on Christmas Eve, but that may well be something my children will do in later years 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Claire. It is a fine road to walk between keeping some old traditions without becoming so tied to them they strangle any new traditions. I didn’t know the French celebrated on Christmas Eve; my husband’s family celebrates on Christmas Eve before Midnight Mass, but I don’t know whether they brought that from Germany or not.

  2. Wow, what a story! I had the storybook Christmas throughout childhood, but my husband’s was closer like yours. He had family around when he was growing up (sometimes drunk and belligerent) but thankfully with other family to counteract that. But now that both of his parents passed before he turned 40, the rest of his family has pretty much done as your parents’ families did, over something just as stupid: money (and not that much of it). My family and I do what we can to soften the blow; sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

    • Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s family. I truly don’t understand why things work out like that among family members, but they do so with stunning regularity. I hope that he will continue to find comfort in your family traditions; I know it has helped me. Thank you for sharing your story, too.

  3. Good for you and your husband to create family traditions from scratch, especially with a blended family. I’m not big on family traditions and neither is my husband, but HIS mother is – and I love her for it. My daughters have benefited from her attention to these details, as it sounds your family has too.

    Congratulations on your award! I too have been tardy in sharing my appreciation for an award, and I like how you handled it. (I prefer ANY part rather than soprano on the Messiah!)

    • Thank you, Bridgette. I think I felt it was a chance to give my children the kind of holidays that I didn’t have as a child.

      And also thank you on how I handled the award. I think it is hard to figure out a good way to pass along awards, even when we are very grateful for them.

  4. What a nice post. Your family sounds absolutely adorable and very much deserving extra hugs next time you see them. Family makes all the difference. They can be a pill and know which nerve to strike at the right time, but they are always the heart and soul of happiness. Families come in all shapes and sizes and extensions. They are all appreciated and loved. Thank you for sharing. This was oh so sweet.

    • Aw, thanks, Wendy. Yeah, there definitely were times when the kids were nearly put on the curb with a “free child to a good home” sign, LOL, but they truly are the heart and soul of happiness, as you say. I’m really glad you enjoyed it.


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