Making Memories

IMG_3301Our family has many traditions that we observe throughout the year.  When it is somebody’s birthday, we eat in the dining room and the birthday girl (or husband) eats on the “It’s your special day” plate that was given to us by dear family friends when my first daughter was born.  At Easter, the girls fill their baskets with dyed Easter eggs, the same baskets they have been using since each of them celebrated her first Easter.  We always take a family portrait on the 4th of July, each one of us decked out head-to-toe in red, white, and blue.  But there is no other time throughout the year that is more steeped in tradition for our family then during the Christmas and New Year’s season.

For many years, my mother and I were part of the millions of people who spent all day shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.  Two things that have happened in recent years have changed that for us: the first was the transferring of all of the best sales to Thanksgiving Day (we refuse to leave our family dinner table to go shopping), and the second was Rebecca’s Freshman year of college.  Since Rebecca leaves the Sunday after Thanksgiving to head back to school and doesn’t return until just before Christmas, we now spend that weekend decorating our house and putting up our tree instead of running to the mall.  It takes an entire day to strip all of the shelves and tabletops of all of our framed pictures, dozens of books, and many collectibles from our travels and replace them with our extensive nutcracker collection and the Nativity sets that my husband and I have brought back from all over the world.  The nutcracker collection really belongs to the girls.  Rebecca started the collection the Christmas she was three after seeing the Nutcracker on stage for the first time.  Over the years we have all added to the assemblage and have now amassed nearly 100 in the form of everything from the original Nutcracker Prince to my prized Washington Redskin.  Most of these will go with the girls when they get married, which leads me to the next tradition that we hold very dear, one that was actually started by my parents when I was a baby.

Every year when we put up our tree, everybody in the family gets a new ornament representative of something special that happened in their lives that year.  Some of Rebecca’s ornaments include a clarinet, a field hockey player, and, of course, her graduation cap.  Katie has an artist’s palette, a drama mask, and a piano.  Morgan’s ornaments include a swimmer, a bow and arrow, and a lacrosse player.  Just as I did when my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas after we were married, each of our girls will take their ornaments with them when they start their own married lives so that they have ornaments for their first tree.

Of course, the most cherished traditions of the Christmas season are the times we spend with family and friends.  This weekend, we will open our home to our closest mother-daughter friends for our 10th Annual Mother-Daughter Cookie Swap.  This year, the participants will make 14 dozen of their favorite kind of Christmas treat ( which may be cookies, or fudge, or bread), and everyone will take home 14 dozen different kinds of treats for the holidays.  I will prepare a gourmet meal to serve them and make homemade gifts for each of them to thank them for their friendship and support over the past year.  Later in the week, our family will enjoy Christmas Eve dinner with my extended family and Christmas Day dinner with Ken’s extended family.  It’s a lot of work, yes, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything  in the world.

New Year’s Eve will find us once again opening our home to friends as the girls will host their 14th New Year’s Eve sleepover!  Why do we do all of this, I’m sure many will ask.  Why not, I say!  What is life if we’re not truly living it, making the most of it, and creating memories and traditions that will go on for generation after generation?  I know that when my children are grown and have busy lives of their own, these will be the things they will cherish – not the materials things, the nutcrackers or the ornaments – but the memories that go with them.  And when you think about it, that’s all we can really take with us when we go, so let’s all make memories that count.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow her at on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site