Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

For November 30


Holiday celebrations always changing, as we grow older


          Have you noticed how the celebration of holidays is always changing, as we grow older?

            Take Halloween, for example. When our boys were small, Halloween was a big deal. We walked house to house with them when they were little. As they grew older, we turned them loose on the neighborhood, hoping they would bring back no razors but lots of chocolate we could enjoy with them.

            One Halloween our boys have never forgotten is the night their mother rang the doorbell. She had slipped out, donned a wig, inserted wax buckteeth in her mouth, draped herself in a dark robe, and frightened the living daylight out of her sons by speaking the only Japanese word she knew, which meant “hello.”  The boys had no idea she was their mother until she removed her wig.

            When the boys were older, we let them go to the door, or hide in the bushes to scare the children who came to our house. They seemed to enjoy a more adult approach to this costumed occasion.

            In recent years, when none of our grandchildren was nearby, I confess that Halloween lost most of its allurement to us. Some nights we have gone out for a long supper, or a movie, simply to avoid having to go to the door 15 times to hand out candy. If our lack of compassion horrifies you, then I am sorry. All I can say is this: try to handle it.

            What brought all this to mind was my reflection on how the celebration of Thanksgiving has changed over the years. During my childhood, Thanksgiving was a day of feasting at the bountiful table my parents provided. As my siblings and I grew up, married and left home, we were still drawn “back home” to enjoy Thanksgiving as a family.

            We all endured the tension of being expected to show up in two different places. My parents wanted us with them, and my wife’s folks wanted  us around their table. The solution was not an easy one. For years, we stuffed ourselves at lunch with one family, then overstuffed ourselves five hours later with our other family. This made for a miserable time of indigestion every Thanksgiving night.

            Finally, we became mature enough to insist that our meal with one family be shifted to Friday. This plan was tolerated but never without a certain amount of complaining. Thanksgiving, all agreed, was a day when the entire family needed to gather together, period, no more discussion.

            After the death of our parents, the commemoration of Thanksgiving changed. My wife and I began to host a meal on that day for our sons, their wives, and their children. This seemed important to us all. Often one or more of our sons would drive several hundred miles to spend two days with us, then make the grueling trip back home.

            Recently this plan began to change like the others. Last year our youngest son, Steve, bought and remodeled the old home place, where I was born.  Steve and Amy wanted to renew the tradition of hosting relatives and friends on Thanksgiving Day just like Papa and Mama did for many years. About 75 people showed up, so they decided to invite everyone back for, as Steve said, “the next 50 years.”

            By this time, my wife seemed happy not to have the “honor” of hosting 30 plus people for a Thanksgiving meal. Instead, she worked hard as usual, but assisting Amy to prepare for the thundering herd. Again, this past Thursday, about 75 people shared a turkey day meal at the old home place.

            Only one of our sons was missing from the celebration. Our son, Mark and his wife, Sherri, said, “We would love to come, but frankly, we are exhausted and need a break from work. We plan to sleep in, then go to Waffle House for lunch.”

            We understand their situation. Both Mark and Sherri are often at work by 5 a.m., this despite the fact that both of them have an hour’s drive to get to work. We do sympathize with their need for a break.

            I must admit, however, that secretly I hoped that as they were eating their waffles last Thursday, they began to think to themselves, “Turkey and some of Mom’s special dressing would taste a lot better than these waffles.” Still, we have taught our children that they are free to make their own decisions, even when they are wrong.

            Our celebration of Christmas has gone through changes similar to those of Thanksgiving. After our sons married and had children, they began to desire getting up on Christmas morning in their own homes. They wanted to begin traditions with their own children like those we shared as a family when they were young.

            Sometimes we have had our family to join us for lunch on Christmas Day. However, that has not always worked, for the wives of our sons have families who want them to spend Christmas with them.

            Last year we had brunch at our home on Christmas morning, so some of our sons could be with us, then journey to the homes of their wives. However, we remembered the tension we endured years ago when we made a heroic effort to be with both our families on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day.

            This year we are planning lunch for our family on Christmas Eve, thus freeing everyone to be at home on Christmas Day or anywhere else they choose to be. The plan seems agreeable to one and all.

            Christmas morning, then, Dean and I will awaken to silence, not to the happy sounds of children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren. We will do our best to enjoy it, content in knowing that it is what our family desires – to be home on Christmas morning.

            Holiday celebrations do keep changing, as we grow older. What our children do not know is that for many years, my wife has said repeatedly to me, “I wish we could spend Christmas in Connecticut, snow and all!” Well, guess what? One Christmas soon our family may have to fly up to Connecticut to be with us! And if I know our family, some of them will be right there with us!

            Changes, changes, changes. We have to learn to live with them, and make the most of them, from the cradle to the grave. The important thing, I reckon, is to enjoy these special days to the fullest, regardless of the shape they take.

            Being with the family, no matter how the holidays are observed, is what matters most. No matter the size of the family, there is simply no substitute for loving affirmation, joyous laughter, and warm words of encouragement – to mention all that good food!  + + + +