Saturday, December 26, 2009

Family Memories

Christmas is always a big part of my family's traditions. Growing up, we were pretty poor. As I entered middle school it was no different - in fact, financially speaking it was worse.

However, despite all of that, Christmas was and still is my favorite holiday. My mom, grandma, and aunts would all begin baking and cooking days in advance. Once school was out, Matt, Meg and I would all spend the days playing and decorating our house with homemade decorations. Especially, once I taught them how to make snowflakes. We would set up our Christmas tree and Mom would let us decorate the tree. Of course, after we fell asleep she'd fix it so it was a little less lopsided, since we tended to put too many ornaments in areas and had thick patches in some places and bare patches in others. Regardless of all that, though we still enjoyed Christmas, the movies, the music, and if we were really lucky that year - playing in the snow.

We'd go outside and play in the snow for what seemed like hours when we were young, but looking back I realized we weren't out as long as we thought. We'd come in one at a time to defrost, this usually included crawling under the covers with Mom in her heated water bed and snuggling up next to her to warm our frozen appendages. Looking back now, she took it all in stride and didn't complain. Sometimes, she would ask us "Who is that?" and of course, we answered with "me". It became a game we would play. Kind of like the game she made up where she would ask us how we got so cute? When we were little we didn't know the answer, but as we learned more and more in school our answers became cuter and eventually, Meg told her, "DNA Mom, DNA."

No matter how poor we were though, Mom always baked goodies and cooked what seemed like huge amounts of food. Our house would begin to smell of Christmas. But I think our favorite part of Christmas was when our cousins would come because it meant new playmates. It also meant that we were that much closer to Christmas day itself. So as the time drew closer and closer, Matt, Meg and I would await eagerly for our cousins to arrive with food, their bodies, and more importantly, more presents. As I got older it became less about the presents and more about spending time together. But lately I've been thinking a lot about presents and what I think I loved the most. So here are a few of my favorite things:

1. When I was in middle school, Mom found or had made the neatest pillow. It wasn't very big, but it had the best poem on it about, "I love you so my daughter and I never cease to pray that God will guide and keep you in His love, each and every day. . ." There is more to it, but that's what I remember of it. It was lost 10 years ago or so when I was away in Sicily. I would love to find it or one like it to give to each of my girls.

2. A coat - a few years ago, I needed a coat very badly. And I do mean very badly. My coats had fallen apart and I had gained weight after having Elizabeth and so when Chris thought I wasn't paying any attention, he ran back to a store where I spotted a coat I liked and he bought it. Now I know he meant to keep it a secret, but if you know my husband, you know he cannot keep a secret.

3. This is last, but certainly not least - the year Chris and I had begun dating we had a good Christmas. Sarah's mom had finally allowed her to come and stay for Christmas after Chris talked to her. A few days after Christmas we drove up to Iowa and met Chris' dad and on the way home, I suspected that something was up. I also knew that if I was incorrect, I would be devastated, so I told myself to not get my hopes up. Although, all signs pointed to the fact that Chris planned to ask me to marry him officially - with a ring. As luck would have it, I was correct. Dec. 30th, Chris asked me to marry him and gave me the most beautiful ring. It may not seem like much to other people - or those who place importance on size and carat, etc . . . but it was then and still is today one of my most prized possessions. I love that ring, because he worked long and hard to find and pay for it.

Sadly, as we've grown up the cousins have moved away and so getting together has become a little more difficult - especially since Aunt Chris and Uncle Frank are far away. I would love for us to all have a large Christmas again like we used to every four years when they would come home on furlough. It would be a huge gathering now with three sisters, their children and their children's families, but it would be wonderful. We used to have so much fun visiting with each other and playing games and laughing.

My final favorite memory - at least for this entry, is Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve we would all gather around after a day spent playing, talking and eating; we would begin to sing Christmas songs and Uncle Ed would read the Christmas story and pray. It may not seem like much, but it was our tradition and it seemed magical to me somehow. It was nice to open presents, sure but it wasn't the best part of Christmas. I don't have any of the gifts I got as a child left, they've been misplaced or stolen over the years or broken if they were the best tea mugs ever (Mom, made those too- or at least she painted them for us), I don't even have my Barry Manilow tapes anymore. But those memories - those never leave me and I think my life is all the better for them.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year my friends and family.

Maureen Koeppel

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