Monday, December 17, 2007

Family Christmas Gathering 2007

For the last 30 something years Jim and I have hosted the family Christmas gathering. Over the years this gathering has included many of our family members that are no longer with us but that still mean so much. We truly miss Mom & Dad, Fred, Gramma Marge, Grampa Andrew, Gary & Becky, Nana & Lala Angie. When we have our annual Christmas party, it is a time to remember them all. It is a time to remember the growing up years of our kids, Jen, Chris and Laura, and our nieces and nephews Becky, Alesha, Nick, Erin and Scott. Not everyone can come each year anymore but we love having whoever can make it. It is now exciting to have the gatherings with our grandchildren and great nephew, Sebastian. We have been joined the last couple of years by Lola, the Napa Colberg's dog.

This tradition developed from our own Colberg childhood tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve each year. Thinking back on our childhood Christmases many things come to mind. I remember that it was Dad who always did all the Christmas Card sending and the tree decorating while Mom did all the wonderful baking and cooking. We had one of those new fangled aluminum Christmas trees with the color wheel when I was a teenager. I can remember lying on the floor under that tree and just gazing up through the shiny branches at the beautiful colors as the wheel changed methodically from red to blue, then green and finally yellow. Wow, I don't think I have ever felt so rich! Before that we would have a regular living Christmas tree and it was decorated with the big colored lights, ornaments that were mostly glass balls, and endless tinsel that was painstakingly applied one strand at a time. It always looked so beautiful but there was a down side. The caveat was the task of taking it off the tree when Christmas was over, wrapping in on the cardboard that had carefully been saved so that it could be used again the next year. We didn't have many Christmas decorations just mostly the tree and a little nativity set which I still have to this day. The lights on the trees were the big ones and it was always a thrill to see them light up for the first time. Our friends, the Hollanders, had the bubble lights on their tree and I remember we were quite envious of that.

Every Christmas day we would have Aunt Wilma, Uncle Bill, and our cousins Billy and Bobby, and their Grandpa Ken over for a turkey dinner. Oh, how I love their family! They are our family and the only ones we ever lived near growing up. Aunt Wilma was one of my Mom's older sisters. Bill and Bob are my cousins & "big brothers!" Their word was law when we were growing up, after all they were the biggest and the smartest! Our aunt and uncle and cousin, Billy, have passed away now but Bob & Beth were here last night. They just can never know how much that means to me and to Steve and Gary as well. It just brings the joy of those Christmases past right back to the present for me. I can still see my Aunt Wilma and my mom in their aprons cooking all day and my Dad and Uncle Bill watching the games on TV and playing Cribbage while rolling tooth picks between their teeth. (How odd to remember something like just never knows with kids what leaves an impression and what goes unnoticed....although it is rarely what you might think! ) As kids we would hang out in our rooms and talk and play and just have fun. The boys would always try to snitch pie before dinner although I don't ever remember them being successful in that endeavor. The other big commodity at the dinners was the black olives which all of us kids loved, especially Gary who always had one on each finger for munching!

In our family we always opened all the presents on Christmas Eve because our parents got tired of being awakened at midnight and every hour thereafter to see if we could go see what Santa had brought for us. Each Christmas Eve we participated in a Christmas program for our school and church. Dad would drop us off under the pretense of looking for a parking place, then he would drive home and set everything up and get back to the church just in time for the closing song! He would always say what a great job we did with our singing and speaking parts. We never caught on and would always look for Santa and his sleigh out the car windows on our way home from Church. We always came home with a bag of loot from the Church which was a little brown lunch sack with an orange, ribbon candy and almonds and walnuts in the shells. Although we loved that, the real treat was coming home to what Santa left for us and to Mom's home made nut bread. There was nothing like that nut bread that she baked in Campbell's soup cans after removing one end so it was like a tall cupcake when it came out of the oven. That bump on the top was always the best part.

From these fond memories our celebrations have moved to one of the Sundays in December. As they have morphed into an incorporation of many of the Italian traditions of Jim's family, we have come up with a pretty fun tradition of our own.
This year none of our kids or grandkids could join us but we did have Gary, Marilyn, and Erin and Lola (the dog) . We really missed Marilyn's parents, Tom & Jean. Jean has been struggling with a cold so they could not come this year. We had Bob & Beth, Steve, Emily, Ruth, Alesha, Raul, and their baby Sebastian, and Nicholas (truly our saint!) Of course Jim and I were here and Jim's mom, Grandma Gloria. We missed Scott who is still in NY at school.

Before dinner we enjoyed appetizers supplied by Bob and Beth and Gary and Marilyn. Beth brought a beautiful, fresh crab dip with bread and crackers and Marilyn brought a delicious French bread, mushroom, and cheese delight! No matter what I do I can not get the family to sit down and relax before dinner! It is always a lot of hustle and bustle in the kitchen as we huddle together with the appetizers and warm up by the fireplace. I like to think it is the excitement of seeing everyone and not our tiny cottage that makes this happen! They seems to be fine with it but I want them to be comfortable!

For dinner we had our traditional Italian salad course with a lovely salad made by Alesha and the all the fun things like salami, cheese, olives, Gramma Marge's roasted red bell peppers, marinated in olive oil and swimming in sauteed garlic, stuffed celery, etc, etc. For our main course we served ham, cheesy potatoes and green beans with almond and rice vinegar. The meal was topped off by apple and pecan pies.

For our gifts we all brought ornaments for each household and that was really fun. Everyone brought such cute ornaments and Tom and Jean really wowed us all with homemade little domes with a tiny Aptos house inside it. They had included a little yard sign with their names on it. Their house number was printed on the tiny snow clad house. On the bottom they had written "Merry Christmas from our house to your!" It was over the top, Tom! Your talents never cease to amaze us all! We have had a Santa visit in the past and we are about due again with little Sebastian getting older now.

We felt like everyone enjoyed the evening but there was one major faux pas. I forgot to have Steve play his guitar and lead us in our annual Christmas carols. Honestly, it must be chalked up to turning 60 and losing my mind! I felt terrible about this as I know he practiced a lot and had to haul over all the stuff. Bummer! Of course he did not help me out any with a little reminder! Anyway a double session of singing next year then.

The funniest thing of the evening for me was when Marilyn said, " Lola (the dog) looks like me don't you think?" She then proceeded to put the dog up by her face and whoa! It was pretty amazing! You have seen those deals where there are pictures of people and their matching dogs...well they have nothing on these two! I am going to include the pictures and you will have to decide who is who! It should be pretty easy though, Marilyn is the pretty one with no whiskers!

For those of you that couldn't come, we missed you. For those of you that did come we are so happy you did. Merry Christmas to all! Thanks for creating another fun family memory for us! We love you!


Laura said...

I love reading your special Christmas memories; especially about your Christmas Eve's as a child! My husband also has a special memory of lying down under the tree and loving to look at all the lights as a little child!

Miss Jen said...

Some of my best memories are of the Colberg Chrismas gatherings. It's nice to hear what you remember from your own childhood too. I'm dying to see the ornament from the Shannahans! Photo please!

I'm on the 3rd floor in the parents 'lounge' checking my blog before I bunk down with little Hazie Jay for the night. Love you!