I am dusting off this old Christmas column because it is still so relevant. My daughter is going to drive from New Jersey to South Carolina this year so we can all be together. My grandsons (ages 14, 9, and 7) don’t like the long trip. My three daughters used to not like the long trips either, but it is now one of their fondest memories.
To me, Christmas has always represented a time for family. When I was growing up my dad had a Santa Claus outfit and bag full of presents that he would bring for us.
When I was older, we still gathered around the dinner table with relatives. Dinner started at 2 p.m. with antipasto. At 4 p.m. the lasagna, salad, and bread were served. We waited until 5:30 p.m. for the main course with the trimmings. Then it was dessert at 7 p.m. followed by nuts and fruit at 8 p.m.
It allowed us to all be together for the entire day. That taught me the importance of family at Christmas. Once Joan and I got married we would spend Christmas morning with her family and then head back for the 2 p.m. dinner cycle to begin.
Even when I started my residency in Boston, I had to contend with night calls every second or third night. That meant that the only way to get home for Christmas was to be on vacation. I made a trade with the Chief Resident each year.
I agreed to make out the entire year’s call schedule for all 27 residents as long as I got to take a vacation at Christmas. That worked for her. This was pre-computer days. So, it meant work for me.
I managed to get leave at Christmas time for all 20 years in the Air Force. That even meant flying home for Christmas the two years I was in England. All of my other assignments were on the East Coast, so I was able to drive home to my parents’ house for Christmas dinner. But for three years it meant driving from South Carolina to Long Island.
The tradition kind of continued when my two daughters got married within five weeks of each other in 1996. We agreed that we would do Thanksgiving as a family one year and Christmas the next.
This is a Christmas year. So, on Christmas Day all three daughters, three sons-in-law, and ten grandchildren will be together. As you might have guessed, dinner will start at 2 p.m. with a prayer of Thanksgiving for us all being together. As you might expect we will then have antipasto followed by lasagna.
I have written about the importance of Christmas and family in the past. The point at that time was to make sure any long-standing family disagreements got buried. Someone has to take the first step. Family is forever. If you are estranged from a family member, maybe this is the year for that step to be taken.
You might remember the scene from Home Alone where Kevin convinced his neighbor to call his son. That was all it took for them to spend Christmas together.
Perhaps you can join with all of us that get to spend the Christmas holidays with our family this year with your family as well.