Traditions are meant to be broken Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

Grand Mom by Audrey Mettel Fixmer

"On Christmas Eve we always . . ."

Think about all of the ways you might have finished that sentence at various stages in your life.

Although I have always cherished traditions, I couldn't help thinking recently about how many times I have had to "break with tradition" in every stage of my life.

Evolving traditions

Here's an example from my life:

At age six? On Christmas Eve we always go to church and see Baby Jesus in his manger and sing 'O Come All Ye Faithful,' then we come home and put out a plate of cookies for Santa and go to bed early, but I try to stay awake and wait for him.

At age 12? On Christmas Eve we hurry up to wrap the last gifts for under the tree before our whole family goes to church for the Midnight Mass. I will sing in the choir all the carols we practiced over and over. I love them!

At age 18? I can stay out with my friends only for a couple of hours so I will be home in time to go to Mass with my family. Now that I have a job I was able to buy a few gifts for them. That's more fun.

New family, new traditions

At 24? My husband is a teacher now in Holdingford, Minn. With four kids under five, we won't be able to get home to Aurora for Christmas. That will be lonely, but a nice neighbor from my choir invited us over for a Polish Christmas breakfast after Midnight Mass and supplied a baby sitter. That will be fun.

In my 30s? I'm sewing new outfits for each of my girls and knitting sweaters or mittens for the boys. We keep the Christmas traditions as we sing Christmas carols while we do dishes, light an Advent wreath, and Bob or the older kids read stories to the little ones while I cook and bake cookies. Why don't they keep the kids in school until Christmas Eve so I could get it all done?

In my 40s? I have a full time teaching job now, but I won't let go of our Christmas Eve traditions, even if it means being up until midnight baking cookies and wrapping gifts and decorating. Only eight kids left at home now that Rob and Tom are married, but every night it's a zoo here. Why don't they close schools a week before Christmas so I could get it all done?

More chaos, more joy

In my 50s? The kids keep getting married and having babies, and I am urging a pre-nup agreement that we have Christmas Eve at our house. What a happy gang this is! Just the grandkids open gifts now, with adults drawing names. Thank God they do some of the food preparation. As it is, I am too tired for Midnight Mass, but I find the morning Mass very peaceful and breakfast is quiet when they go to the in-laws.

In my 60s and 70s? Retirement is wonderful. I have three Christmas trees and five mangers in our new house on Sioux Trail. The family room in the basement provides a stage for the grandkids' annual Christmas play, the height of all entertainment! Of course, they are the most talented kids in the world. They come with their guitars and their parents come with their casseroles and desserts. Life doesn't get better than this.

Changing yet again

Now in my 80s? All traditions are meant to be broken, yet many happy surprises await us when we do. When Bob moved into a nursing home, we sold our big house and knew that entertaining the whole family at one time would never happen again. I gave most of my restaurant-sized serving dishes to daughter-with-the-big-house Kris, who has hosted the family Christmas Eve party ever since. Someone would always bring Bob to her house so that "Grandpa" could be part of it until . . .

This year another tradition begins as our younger son John and his wife Janine will welcome us to their new home on Christmas Eve. Sadly, Bob is no longer able to leave Countryside to join us, but I am happy to report that right after we gather at John's we will "go a caroling" to Countryside with our guitars and music, bringing Christmas to Bob, his friends, and all of the staff there.

Many traditions change, but the one constant is the love and joy that flows from celebrating the birth of Jesus in every stage of our lives.

Merry Christmas!

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