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Family holidays

Published January 08. 2011 09:00AM

When I was a little girl, our holidays were very special. My Aunt Madaline and Uncle Tony used to arrive the night before the holiday and bring great presents - a turkey for Thanksgiving, boxes of presents for Christmas, champagne for New Year's Eve, and even fireworks for the 4th of July.

My family was always close. We celebrated every holiday together. As our family grew, it was lucky that we had a big dining room table and lots of card tables. To this day, our daughter Jennifer remembers being seated at the "kids" table in the kitchen instead of the dining room table. She says that the mark of growing up was being moved into the dining room and sharing the adult table.

Recently, our niece Kris and her children came to visit us in Florida for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time together. We two women cooked together, the kids played, swam, and rode the golf cart with Uncle Jim (or as Santina says "Unca Im"). We had a great traditional Thanksgiving dinner, decorated our small Christmas tree, played Christmas songs on the organ and enjoyed the whole family experience.

It was even possible for us to visit our daughter Jennifer and her 4 kids during Kris's holiday visit. One of the highlights of that trip to Oviedo was seeing the whole gang on the couch having a photo taken. It had been a long time since Kris and Jen got to spend time together. Watching all of the cousins playing soccer in the backyard was a joy.

I always say that geography and love don't really have much to do with each other. It's possible to keep a strong connection between you and those you love, no matter how far away you are. But, it was very heartwarming to see all those cousins enjoying each other's company and sharing an afternoon.

Now Jen and I will be getting ready for Christmas by baking dozens of cookies. It's been a long time since I could help her with that job. Living 8 hours away in South Carolina made visiting hard. Living only 90 minutes away makes it easy to drive to her home. We'll be in the kitchen for two days straight - making kiffles and about 8 other kinds of holiday cookies.

I remember our family Christmas Eve dinners - with everyone enjoying turkey and pasta, opening gifts, and then walking up the street for midnight mass. After church, most of us came back and raided the kitchen to make turkey sandwiches. The kids recall those days with much fondness. Now that they have their own families, they are continuing the traditions they learned.

Sharing holidays was a natural thing for us Wells sisters. I held Christmas, Judy had Thanksgiving, Nat took New Year's Eve, and Aunt Bal handled Easter. As for other holidays, we usually gravitated to the family homestead. We loved watching the Memorial Day parade from the big front lawn on West Broadway. The kids loved waving sparklers from the front porch on the 4th of July.

Memories are all we have left. Our family is spread far and wide and many members are alienated from each other. I think about the 'good old days' and wish that we could relive them. However, my practical husband reminds me that - if the entire family ever got together for a holiday - we'd have to rent Yankee Stadium and borrow an umpire.


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