We gather around my dining room table to eat our turkey dinner with urgency. Unlike other years, the turkey is not the main event. My daughter, who is 5 months pregnant with our first grandchild, has decided that on her favorite holiday, surrounded by family, she will find out the gender of her baby. We all take our guesses and video them for prosperity. She opens the envelope from the ultrasound technician. It’s a boy! Cheers all around! This first grandchild of the family is a grandson and we are one step closer to imagining his place at this table.
Christmas Eve 2018
Next year’s generational shift will give us new titles: Mommy, Daddy, Aunt, Uncle, Gigi, Poppy and four Great Grandparents. But this year, for one last time, we are simply who we have always been to one another and it gives our gathering a certain preciousness. I assemble my grown children on the staircase for the annual “waiting for Santa picture.” They have outgrown this tradition but for nostalgia’s sake I insist. We move to the family room for drinks, appetizers, conversation and the leisurely opening of gifts. We reminisce about when they were the babies in this room and wonder how this new child will make our gatherings different.
It is all different, but in ways we didn’t see coming. The loss of one of those four great-grandparents this summer feels like an open wound as we gather for a holiday meal without him for the first time ever. The sadness of seeing that empty place at the table is softened by the smiles and laughter of an 8 month old in a high chair, oblivious to our pain.
This year the decorations dragged down from the attic are assessed for possible risk. At my daughter’s house, this is what leads to a gate bungee corded around a fireplace and a Christmas tree placed behind a couch. It’s less of a compromise at Gigi’s house. I place all the decorations in their normal locations and then allow him to explore with me. I keep a close eye on his hands as I watch him take in all that sparkles and glows.
Christmas Eve 2019
I take the staircase picture. It is more crowded this year. Everyone seems a little more enthusiastic about it, mostly because they are coaxing smiles from a 9 month old. We proceed to the family room. We are most excited to show off to one another the gifts we bought for the baby. He is most excited by a random box amidst the torn wrappings on the floor.
The Holidays 2020
All the grown people are eager to gather with the 1 year old this holiday season. His innocent joy reignites our sense of wonder. We smile more, we laugh more, we get down on the floor and play. We shake off the chill of December and are drawn to the warmth he radiates when our little one shows up at Gigi’s house.