Dec 31, 2010

Home for the Holidays

Christmas #1: Celebrated with the Leens and Berglunds, December 18, 2010 at the Leen's home in Dayton. From L to R: Dad Leen, Shiloh Berglund the cocker spaniel, Jenny Berglund (Barbara's sister), The Feller, Me, Babs, Mom Leen, Matt Berglund (our brother-in-law), and Bailey Berglund.

This year we had Cristmas three times between December 18 and December 25, 2010, and all three were celebrated in one sense or another, at home.

The first Christmas was at the home of Barbara’s youth in Dayton with her parents, sister and brother-in-law. Since we would be flying to Florida on the 24th to see my family we celebraterd with the Leens and Berglunds a week early.

Gathered around the tree, Saturday evening, December 18.

Opening gifts with an assist from the Feller and Shiloh

Jenny sporting one of her gifts, a Snuggie!

The Feller and Uncle Matt clowning around.

Jenny with her babies.

Dad and Daughter

Mom Leen and Babs


The first week of Christmas vacation was remarkably busy. Monday was devoted to cookie making. Traditionally, my gift to the Paez kids has been cookies or other desserts, and I wanted to continue the tradition, delivering them via U.S. mail instead of in person. I had the ambitious plan of making six different kinds of cookies, one for each member of the Paez family in Oregon. Right about the time that the egg whites failed to stiffen for my coconut macaroons, I was forced to admit that devoting a full day to making cookies and watching an energetic two year old were simply not compatible. I settled for three types of cookies—chocolate chip, white chocolate chip and macadamia, and giant ginger cookies.

Tuesday and Wednesday I had planned to go in to the school to do some work but Babs was out shopping longer than I anticipated so ended up doing some work from home, cooking, and doing some house cleaning while watching the Feller at home. Wednesday night I finished my Christmas shopping.

Christmas #2 was just the three of us on Thursday, December 23, 2010 (this photo was actually taken at the Leens the previous weekend. Babs took all the photos of Christmas #2 so she's not in any of them).

Our tree.

Thursday evening, after the Feller awakened from his nap we celebrated our second Christmas right here at the little home that the three of us have made for ourselves in Columbus. Barbara’s family had done the draw-names-one-gift-per-person thing and there were no plans for a major gift exchange with my family in Florida, so we decided to do our stockings and exchange gifts between ourselves. Of course, the Feller made out like a bandit, with lots of gifts from Mommy and Daddy, as well as more presents from Go-gah and Pop-pa (they’d bought him so much that we spread out their gifts between the first and second Christmas so as not to overwhelm him), a gift from Uncle JJ, Auntie Evelyn, and Benjamin and presents from Auntie Rose, his daycare provider.

It's funny, we had thought we should put a second Christmas tree out on the balcony to dress it up for the holiday. We ended up not doing it, but if you look carefully, you'll notice that the reflection of the tree in the living room makes it look as if there's one out there anyway.

The Feller's ready for those stockings!

Checking out my DVD of the lastest U2 tour and a DVD, both gifts from Babs.

The Feller plays with his Thomas the train set, a gift from the Carlos family.

On Christmas Eve we flew down to Florida to spend a week with my family in Orlando, the town I called home as child. We stayed with my sister, her husband, and son and celebrated our third Christmas on Christmas Day itself. Like the other two Christmases, the main celebration was in the evening. We gathered at my uncle Robert and Aunt Diana’s home Christmas night for dinner and a white elephant gift exchange. It was nice to see familiar faces once again—Uncle Roland and Aunt Colleen, my cousin Nicole and her family, Grandma, my brother Vince.

The Feller with his Nona for Christmas #3, December 25, 2010.

The Feller plays with his gift from Nonna, a Bible felt book, while Nonna and her other grandchild, my sister's son look on.

On Christmas Eve at Dawn's house we made cookies to share. I'd actually finished my contribution, Danish pastries, the day before in Ohio and brought them down with me. But everyone else finished theirs over the weekend.

My brother Vince works on his caramel blondies.

Here's my danishes (bottom) and Vince's blondies (top). Mom made her cream-filled pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and Jim made his rice krispie Christmas wreaths later in the weekend.

Dawn's apple blinkies with vanilla cream

The rest of the week was spent staying up and sleeping in late. While I wouldn’t describe the week as exactly restful, it was nice not to be working! On Wednesday, I got together with my high school pals Greg and J for a while. (It just so happened that the Carlos family was in Florida at the same time as us. J and his family were staying with his sister who lives in Orlando). But beyond that, we spent a lot of time at Dawn’s house talking for hours and watching a lot of TV (the Cooking Channel was a favorite) and movies on Netflix. We finished Season 6 of Grey’s Anatomy, I watched most of season 1 of Mad Men, a little bit of season 1 of Friday Night Lights. But my favorite movies that we watched were the movies we made ourselves. For a number of years when I was a kid my extended family made a tradition of making a movie together at Christmas time. While the budget was shoestring and the production values decidedly low-end, we had a lot fun and a lot of laughs, and to this day many of us can quote lines verbatim from the films we made.

This Christmas marked the 25th anniversary of the first of our family films, a Trinidadian version of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol called A Christmas Creole. In our version it’s not the ghosts of Christmas past, present, or future that finally soften Scrooge’s heart, but instead a strong lecture from “Tanti Merle”, a heavily bosomed, large bottomed Trinidadian woman ably played by my Uncle Slimen. Grandpa starred as Ebeneezer Scrooge, grandma as the much-put-upon Mrs. Scrooge, my mom played Scrooge’s secretary Mrs. Scrooge, Aunt Patsy and Uncle Robert made dramatic entrances as the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Past respectively. With Aunt Patsy her son Nabih stopped the camera, then put his mom in place so that in the final product she appeared to flash suddenly into the room, accompanied by spooky organ music. Uncle Robert roared in from the future, white robes flying, on his motorcycle. And somehow at just 12 years old I also got a big role in the film as well, as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Though we did several films in the years that followed, this one was always my favorite. It was funny, full of life, and suffused with love.

On Wednesday evening Uncle Roland and Aunt Colleen invited us over for supper and afterwards we watched our 1985 home video classic in the original VHS format (though rumor has it that a commemorative 25th anniversary edition will be coming out on Blu-Ray soon!). We also watched our spoof of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous filmed two years later in 1987. It was strange to realize that me, my siblings, cousins, and their spouses were now the same age as our parents, aunts and uncles in the film. It was sad to think that two central figures in the films, grandpa and Aunt Patsy were no longer with us. Watching the films together was a bittersweet moment, warmed by fond memories but saddened by the innocence that has since passed, and the empty spots once filled by loved ones.

Pictures from Christmas Night. I wish I had screen shots from the Christmas Creole. In their absence these few photos from Christmas night will have to suffice. The Elder Thomson Family: From left to right, Landon, Uncle Roland (my mom's brother), Aunt Colleen and Nicole.

The Younger Thomson family: From left to right: Aunt Diana, my youngest cousin "T", and Uncle Robert.

The white elephant gift exchange. My cousin Nicole's son, center, was the youngest participant. He got a $20 gift card to Best Buy, which is parents quietly appropriated.

Nicole attempts to get rid of her less desirable gift--a black light bulb.

What does it mean to be home for the holidays? It means laughter and warmth, but also tears and sorrow. It means sharing joy, but also pain. It means being with family and missing family we can no longer be with. They say that friends come and go, but you’ll always have your family. But of course that’s not true. Families are as fragile and impermanent as anything else in this temporal world. So we go home while we still can; we cherish the love we find; endure the occasional stress, because we know that someday the homes of our childhood will be gone.

The next generation will need homes to return to for the holidays too though. So those of us in my generation must work to build strong, loving homes of our own because eventually ours will be the home where our children and theirs will return. And so it will continue until that day when we all go Home for good, Home for the holidays forever and always.

Check out the Feller’s blog in the next week or so. I’ll be posting a lot of photos there of all three Christmases. There’s some absolutely adorable photos especially from our time in Florida that you just have to see. Also, Dawn and Jim took a lot of photos that I wanted to use in this blog. If I can get those photos from them, I’ll add them here.

1 comment:

Mai said...

It looks like you had a wonderful holiday season! All those desserts look YUMMY! And I like the way you ended your post, I'm looking forward to when we get to all go Home for the holidays, forever!