Friday, December 30, 2011

The Family Tree 2011

So I had this great idea to share one of our family Christmas traditions with you all, my loyal readers (most of whom are actually in the family and already know of the tradition). And then I got a sneaking suspicion... So I looked back a year and yup... I already blogged about this here. But guess what, I'm going to blog about it a little more because I love this tradition and because it's very timely at the moment.

About 16 years ago when I was in high school (yeah... that's how old I am), I got this idea to make a new family tradition. The truth of the matter is that though I had a lovely childhood, we sadly lost a lot of family members during my preteen and teenage years and my cousins and I often felt that our family was ever shrinking instead of expanding -- not a very joyful Christmas concept. I wanted to do something that would honor each member of our family and find a way to keep them with us even when they couldn't always be there. Truthfully, I wish I had done it long before we had lost so many of those family members.

That first Christmas I spent weeks and weeks up in my room in the attic, painstakingly (but truthfully clumsily) crafting one ornament for each member of the family using glass ornaments, paints, glitter and an oh-so-difficult-to-use-without-burning-yourself glue gun. I tried to make each ornament reflect an aspect of that family member. Seashells for my mother who loves Long Island and the beach, western theme for my cousin who rides horses, music notes for my brother and sister-in-law who play piano, etc... I cried tears of frustration trying to get things to stay glued and get the letters of names to look just right (as I said, I am never too neat with crafts though I wish I could be).

Some of those ornaments have seen better days, and periodically I need to make an update or too (One of my most loyal blog readers gets an upgrade next year!) I've also joyfully had to make a few additions. My sister-in-laws parents, my new cousin Tom, and of course three new ones for our newest little ones: Maddie, my niece and my nephew.
Here's my aunt Luann's which I talked about recrafting last year, designed to look like a patchwork quilt -- go ahead and name that pattern.

Each year that Christmas is at my Mom's house, she graciously allows us to hang the ornaments on the tree. I get the joy of handing an ornament to each person and watching them put it on their branch. (Yes, Rob and I are the only ones I think who follow the true Days of Our Lives tradition and put ours in a cluster. Mine's the clear glass with a little hippie-ish beading for my PP&M-loving soul. Rob's is decoupaged newspapers for as Rob says "Remember when I used to read newspapers?" and Maddie's is ducky-themed since she never appeared without a duck until she was 2. I'm sure she'll love that as a teenager.)

For those who couldn't make it to our Christmas or who are no longer with us, we still hang their ornament on our tree -- a way for them to be present even when they aren't physically there. My aunt who lives in Africa every year has an ornament hung on the tree by her sister -- and next year, she'll be home to hang her own.

My mom likes a simple tree, nicely flocked with very few ornaments and I know this tradition makes her a little edgy to see such a cluttered tree. Plus the whole effort of getting people to climb over people to get to the tree can be a little crazy. This year we had 16 plus three little ones so it was indeed a bit chaotic. It may be selfish of me, but I love it. Because every time I see all those ornaments, I think about how we started with 11.


Now here's the part where nice, sentimental Christmas turns into expose your inner crazy soap geek, Alex. Yes, this tradition originated with Days of Our Lives -- and believe me, I have taken no small amount of teasing for this fact. Since it certainly seems to me that we may be nearing the end of the soap opera genre with all the recent cancellations, I'd like to take a moment here and tell you why I frown at all you who poo-poo the Days of Our Lives ornaments! [Of course, if my explanation of the tradition left you cold, you can just skip this part altogether, because you are not the sentimental type!]

I grew up watching DOOL, and occasionally still watch it today. From the time I was three years old, I watched Days: since I wouldn't nap, my mom would let me sit quietly next to her while she watched her soap. Some of you sceptics may not like to hear this, but I think watching soaps made me more creative, better at multitasking, more able to focus (come on how many conversations can you pay attention to at one time? I'm known to follow three or four), and analytical (you have to be able to think through how Stefano could have died seven times).

But at this time of year, I always love to watch soaps and I usually watch a few more shows than usual. There's something magical about a soap opera Christmas episode that always puts me in the mood for the holidays. Watching the Days' Horton family hang their ornaments, or the GH Twas the Night Before Christmas reading (which I think they skipped this year!) is just like watching those old Christmas classics on television. I still remember seeing the Cory family celebrate around their tree (in their mansion) on Another World and thinking someday I want that. And it's nice to know that as this stage of my life, I have my own little soap opera Christmas moment (still no mansion, though). So Viva La Soap -- seriously, do something right for your brain and indulge in a little romantical education daytime television today.

If you're not familiar with the Days Christmas tradition, here it is. I cannot believe they have this one on YouTube. Hello, 1976!

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