To Grandmother’s House We Go

In all the years we’ve been married, my husband and I have never spent Christmas at home. We’ve been responsible for a few Thanksgivings, but never a Christmas. This is primarily my daughter’s fault. She does not believe that I am capable of “doing” Christmas.

Oh, my husband and I can put up a tree and even decorate it. I buy the presents and wrap them and get them to their destinations on time. And I send out gobs of Christmas cards every year—after all, I worked for Hallmark.

We can even manage to play a few Christmas CDs through December, and we own a copy of the 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street, which I watch each year as I address the cards. (My daughter gave it to me a few years ago, even though she prefers the 1994 remake.)

But beyond coping with these minimal holiday activities, my daughter thinks I’m clueless about Christmas.

Where are the cookies? Where are the pies? (I discussed my baking in a recent post.)

Where is the “ho-ho-ho” and mistletoe? (I’m an introvert.)

Currier & Ives print -- I had a needlework kit of this piece when I was younger; I wonder what happened to it

Currier & Ives print — I had a needlework kit of this piece when I was younger; I wonder what happened to it

So off to grandmother’s house we have gone every year. Some years we fought the weather and teeming hordes in the airports to fly to see the distant grandparents. Some years we packed the car and drove to the nearby grandparents’ house.

But every year my daughter decreed that we would not stay at home. She began managing the household when she was four, so she is quite good at issuing decrees.

I suppose I took the easy route when the kids were small. I could have insisted that we have Christmas at home. That’s what my sister did. But then I would have had to bake those cookies and roast that turkey and polish the silver and find the matching napkin rings. (Do I even have enough napkin rings for everyone?)

Yes, grandmother’s house was definitely easier.

Now that my daughter is grown and in a demanding career of her own, maybe she can see why all I did was the bare minimum on holiday traditions when I was working.

On the other hand, earlier this month she attended a Christmas cookie exchange, taking five dozen homemade cookies she whipped up in an afternoon. It appears she hasn’t reached her breaking point yet. (Maybe I should give her the family divinity recipe.)

In recent years I have felt guilty about not serving as family host. One grandmother has Alzheimer’s and is now in assisted living, though that grandfather remains an excellent cook and prepared last year’s Christmas meal. The other grandmother is widowed, though still has a house that can accommodate a crowd, and did so this year.

The family seems comfortable with our routines, and so we continue our Christmas travels.

I wonder what will happen when the grandparents are gone. Will my daughter finally promote me to Christmas queen? Or will the title skip a generation—making me feel a little bit like Prince Charles—so that she takes over our Christmas traditions herself?

But this year, once again, to grandmother’s house we went. And it was a delightful holiday.

What holiday traditions have you passed from generation to generation?

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  1. We used to do Christmas at both parent’s houses, usually one day apart. When my mother moved to Kansas City she had all twenty-four of us for sit-down formal dinner. Finally I took over. We no longer spend the afternoon washing stemmed goblets, fine china and silverware by hand. Instead we use paper plates, plastic forks and cups, and enjoy one another as we eat off our laps anywhere we can find to perch. I prefer my method.

  2. I see you taking the crown of Christmas Queen, in the future. Our family tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve has remained. Every one is well rested on Christmas Day which make for a pleasant dining experience. Happy New Year to you and your family, Theresa.

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