“Paw Patrol!” they squealed with each new gift, nothing of huge consequence to older children, but for our little guys, the puzzles, action figures, stocking boots, and coloring books overwhelmed their delighted little hearts.
Our big guys, on the other hand, delighted in another Christmas tradition: food.
For family living in Virginia, our large brood meets together for a large feast and celebration. If you could see our family page on Facebook, you’d see the plans laid out meticulously down to the table clothing and assigned dishes. The venue changes, but the traditions are the same, and each family brings a few dishes to contribute. Everyone shares the load, and each chef brings his or her best dish.
Twenty years ago, I moved with my family to Michigan, and suddenly, the entire feast rested on my shoulders. I remembered the days when my mother laid a table bulging with holiday trimmings, and I embraced this challenge zealously.
Over the years it became a routine, and I fell into my cooking zone, humming the appropriate carols or hymns for the holiday. I hadn’t thought much about the workload until my elder daughter moved home and watched the rhythm of the two days packed full of kneading, mixing, stirring, and stuffing. She looked a bit overwhelmed just watching me have all the fun. Somehow, I don’t think she thought it looked so fun, and I wondered, in that moment, how they would continue such traditions if I were not around, so being the obnoxiously efficient person I am, I reduced the event to a set of Standard Operating Procedures. Years from now, they may open this up and laugh at the thought of daring to deviate from Mom’s plan, but I hope they’ll also remember the humming and how much Mom loved pampering them with all those goodies. They may or may not chuckle and think, Mom’s still a control freak, even from the grave.
My son-in-law’s co-worker asked him what his contribution to the meal was, and he laughed and informed her they had to do exactly nothing. “All I have to do is empty the trash and help pick things up,” he reported. Then he got a bit nostalgic remembering his own mother, taken from this life far too young, and he wished out loud that she and I could have cooked a Christmas or Thanksgiving meal together. Listening to him describe her work in the kitchen and the bulging feasts she prepared year after year, I think I would have loved that.
So to all the control-freak holiday chefs out there, I salute you. You are part of the club, a group of tradition-loving, kitchen-gadget clutching home cooks who love family and wouldn’t trade this labor of love for anything.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.