Oh my goodness. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, my brother Earl hosts a family get-together to celebrate the season and reconnect before we all dig deep into our winter hibernation.
We’ve been doing this for decades, from when my children were pre-teens (they’re in their 40s now) and before all of the nephews and nieces and grandchildren were born. We tried the Kwaanza thing for a while but it just didn’t catch on. This is a Christmas celebration, pure and simple and traditional. The table always groans with great food and there’s plenty of beverages and desserts served against the backdrop of jazzy Christmas music. We tend to be joyful, which in our family means raucous.
In the early days, there were more friends and acquaintances in attendance, along with what we used to call the ‘seasonal strays’ – folks who did not have family close by and who were invited to share in the wonder that is Miller Time. As our immediate family has grown and the unattached folks have moved on or passed on, the attendance shifted. The grandbabies are now teenagers. The nephews and nieces are all in their 20s and are engaged or attached to partners and signficant others.
For the first time in many years, granddaughter Bryanna joined us from Halifax- she’s 23 and fits right in with all the cousins. She disappeared for a while and when I asked her if there was anything wrong, her comment was, “It’s so noisy. I feel overwhelmed.” And she was right. Hub said the same thing when he retreated to a small table in the sunroom – this year was exponentially more loud than previous years. We take up a lot of space and generate a lot of decibels. The summer get-together is hosted at our house, but an outdoor BBQ isn’t the same kind of relationship-based pressure-cooker environment.
We are all self-confident, talkative, emotional people and as the conversations swirl and bellies fill and excitement grows, the level of sound in the kitchen (where the food just keeps on coming) becomes almost overpowering. And we’re all larger than life in so many ways – jumping into a chat here, leaping to make a comment there.
Hub says that’s because we don’t listen.We counter that we have the uncanny ability to monitor several conversations at the same time and step in and out so that we can be part of more things going on.
The Swedish way is to wait until one person has finished speaking before the second person talks. That’s all very polite and linear and orderly, but honestly, I find it boring. And without the skeins of cross-talk, it’s all very genteel. Good lord, that wouldn’t work in our family. If we did that, we’d be there for days trying to get caught up. Here and there you’ll find quieter clusters of folks having a conversation about politics or education or some other current event. A pair will be playing chess and someone else will be having a quick snooze, recharging themselves for the next foray into conversation.
For all of us, the noise and laughter and chaos are a huge injection of joy and warmth and family love. This is the one day when we’re inside in a small space and can totally overdose on being together. We remember the grandmothers and grandfathers and those who have gone before – they live on for us as we speak their names. We celebrate accomplishments and chomp away at gossip.
We are proud to share a common history. Our children and grandchildren have developed a tremendous sense of history and who they are, based on where they’ve come from.
Family by blood; friends by choice. Can’t wait until next year!