Saturday, December 08, 2007

Holiday Parties

The topic for the December 9th installment of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by Thomas MacEntee is: "Holiday Parties. Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?"

We didn't give or go to any Christmas "parties" although my mother's family got together every year for Christmas when all of us kids were little. We usually went to my Grandpa Vic's house in Larwill, which is the house the family moved into in the late 1930s. Grandpa lived in that house for more than 50 years until he moved to an apartment in Columbia City. My cousin Marilynn purchased the house at that time and she still lives there.

Grandpa would fix the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy while the side dishes and some desserts would be brought by mom and her brother and sisters. There was never a lack of food when this family got together, but it was even more bountiful at Christmas time.

Grandpa's house was a two-story duplex with high ceilings and large rooms (when they first moved in they rented the other side to another family but later my uncle Bill and his family lived on that side of the house). There was a wide "pocket" door that could be closed to separate the front room from the dining room. After the main meal had been eaten (adults at the dining room table that expanded to easily seat 14 - my cousin still has that table - and kids in the front room at card tables or wherever a seat could be found) that pocket door was closed and us kids played games and sang songs while the adults talked, and talked, and talked. (Wouldn't it be neat to have a recording of what was being said? I'm sure I couldn't have cared less back then, but now? Oh, yeah.)

The pocket door had windows in it so we could see them and they could see us, but waiting was absolute torture for us. There we were, in the front room, where the Christmas tree was with all the presents beneath it and we had to wait to open them until "they" were ready. The time finally arrived but then we had to wait for everyone to get their gifts - then we opened them. It was total chaos. But oh, so much fun! The gifts weren't all that grand or expensive, but there was something under the tree for everyone. And if we really, really didn't like what we got, we could exchange it with someone, if they were willing.

The picture below, of my cousins and siblings, was taken in December 1954 at Grandpa's house after the presents had been opened. It was my sister's first Christmas, she's trying to get away from my brothers. There would be eight more cousins born between then and 1974.

As we got older, we would have to help with the dishes and cleaning up before the presents could be opened. And then, as the years passed, it became more difficult for all of us to get together at Christmas and there were really too many of us to fit in anyone's home. We all went our separate ways, some got married and had families of their own, others just went away!

In 1980 my Grandmother decided that it was time for the family to get together again for Christmas! My mother and I were living in rural Noble County and the township had a community building that we rented. By this time there were about 75 family members in four generations. The picture below was taken in 1983, grandma's third dinner, the last time we all got together. There were only a few cousins who not able to attend and several people who were there are not in the photo, one of the missing is me - I was taking the picture. Everyone in the picture has been identified and I've made an outline drawing that numbers and names each person. The quality of this copy isn't that great since the file size had to be reduced to display here, but in the large print that I've got, everyone is in focus.

My grandmother is in the wheelchair (she had cancer and passed away the following May), her sister Jane is sitting beside her, and my nephew Jason is sitting on grandma's lap. Jason was five years old then; he is now 29 years old and has a four year old daughter of his own. Grandpa is a little to the left and behind grandma. Even though they were divorced (for the second time) in 1947, they both attended all of our family gatherings.

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