We’re just back from our annual trek to Kansas to visit my family for Christmas – we were fortunate to have had excellent weather for the duration – some years, including last, weather has sidelined us into roadside motels as we make our way to and fro’. The rental Explorer performed great and our hotel accommodations held up, though our regular spot was a bit rough and noisy around the edges due to some renovations they are doing to keep it lovely.
This year it felt like renovations all around, actually – my grandmother is in a rehab facility after breaking a leg in a fall last week, and it’s at her house where we generally gather with my aunts and uncles and cousins for an annual Christmas Day gift exchange and get-together. So the Big Family Get Together didn’t happen. Though we had already called off the gift exchange portion of the festivities due to a good chunk of the family having it particularly rough financially this year, I was looking forward to seeing everyone over food. I regret we didn’t make it work – with Grandma laid up nobody rallied to host it somewhere else. I was, at least, able to see one uncle while visiting with Grandma in the rehab center on Christmas Day.
But the Christmastime get-togethers of my parents and their progeny, which this year numbered 20 including my mom’s mom and the spouses and children of me and my siblings, were as festive as ever. Some of us went out for a Christmas Eve meal, and my sisters and mom ensured plenty of food for the rest of the comings and goings all weekend long at my parents’ house. We enjoyed a big family gift exchange around our still big and beautiful old family tree (on which they still hang popcorn that was strung over 25 years ago).
A few years ago, we created a new tradition – a Christmas jam session. This year my twelve-year-old niece sang a solo, my two oldest nieces joined her for a trio, and my sister and I played piano and violin back-up for a family caroling session. We were also delighted by a new addition to the family players – my five-year-old nephew chimed in with his rendition of “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” My sister used the “soft” pedal and I trotted out a performance mute as we attempted to feature his mouse-whisper voice, to which he added some hand movements he had learned for a school performance.
Of course, the big musical news of the past week was the death of the great George Michael, who only managed to get 53 years out of this universe. He’s one of only a handful of big-name stars I’ve seen live, a pop star I’ve appreciated since my – and nearly his! – childhood. In this season of giving it’s been touching for me to read of Michael’s many philanthropic efforts, generous gifts to individuals and organizations alike that he kept quietly to himself. His generosity should be an inspiration to us all.
Thanks for reading.