a new way

Christmas 1959, Jayne, me, Anne and Bob

My siblings and our families gather once a year at my house for a Christmas Eve party. I love the holiday season and almost everything about it; buying and wrapping presents, the music, lights, the feeling of good-will in the air, decorations, the excuse to eat rich food, even the snow (for a few weeks!). It is a deeply spiritual time for me. I always thought that my love of the season would naturally spill over into having a big party on my favorite day of the year, Christmas Eve, but that has not been my experience, and yet I didn’t admit this, even to myself, until a few days ago.

We have a tiny house, and as much as I would like to be relaxed about squeezing 20 people in for food and games, the thought always makes me tense. I am also really particular about the food. I like unusual and festive gourmet selections and lots of variety, served on platters and plates with gold trim; over-the-top perfection was what I was aiming for, but my wanting everything to be “perfect” was also exhausting. I was taking on the role of party planner/caterer, not a family member celebrating.

My brother Bob hosted an 84th birthday party for my mother on Saturday. I noticed how relaxed and comfortable he and his fiance seemed. They served salad, rolls and meatballs in sauce. The food was simple and good. My sister Jayne brought the dessert. It was nice. It felt in pretty big contrast to the way I orchestrated our Christmas. I told my brother how much I appreciated his approach and he said that he loved doing it, and an idea hit me; I wonder if he would want to host the Christmas Eve party? I asked, and he did. It turns out that Kim (his fiance) had always wanted this too.

As Jack and I were driving home from the party he said, “You are not going to believe this, but I had been thinking about asking Bob and Kim if they would host the Christmas Eve party. I almost called him up a few weeks ago, but I felt that you needed to be the one to “hand it over”. I cannot tell you how happy I am about this, and I didn’t need to say a thing!”

I am happy about it too. I am ready for new experiences, new ways of doing things, seeing things….very fitting for the upcoming season I think!

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth, shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

20 thoughts on “a new way”

  1. Wow, a great pic from long ago, a fun gathering for your mom’s birthday, and you & Jack looking forward to Bob & Kim hosting Christmas Eve along with a “problem” solved. Hope this week ahead will continue to bring good things to all of us!

    Have a wonderful day!!!

  2. It seems appropriate for today’s topic to tell you about the clothes shopping expedition that I was nervously anticipating last Saturday. I did tell my friend about my anxiety and she proceeded to gently and skillfully guide me to the colors and styles that really looked good on me with extraordinary grace and lots of humor. We spent hours trying on clothes, and I actually had fun. The net result is a coordinated fall wardrobe that is just what I needed; comfortable, but professional. I also think I successfully re-scripted my past experience. Even though I’ll never entirely give up jeans and tees, I think that now I can enjoy dressing up too. So thanks, Mary and all, for the encouragement to open up the possibility to find ‘a new way’!

    1. Good for you, Barbara! More fun for you, and fun and gratifying for your friend as well. “Change your mind, change your life” – it’s really true, isn’t it?

  3. I haven’t been able to keep up with your posts for a few weeks now because my mom broke her elbow and is in rehab and I’ve been run ragged trying to get back and forth from there to home. So this morning, when I found myself with a few extra moments, I came upon this post and oh how pertinent it is!

    Every year we go down to Cape May, NJ for the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a cherished tradition in the family and just yesterday, my mom said she just wasn’t up to making the trip this year. My “set in my ways” self was stricken, as we’ve done this for over 30 years. But as i really looked at the whole picture, I realized that I was a bit relieved to have it all taken out of my hands. There will be other years to carry on, but for this one holiday, I can kick back, sit around in my jeans and still have turkey. Not bad….not bad at all. Glad I picked today to jump onto email!

    1. A number of my friends have been telling me lately that they are going to do something different for the holidays this year…I feel like there is something very positive and powerful in the air for change right now…and these will be presented, said yes to, and new doors will open up that we could not even have imagined!

    2. Hi Suzanne…and welcome back! While I live in Vermont now, I am from South Jersey and all of my family lives and works in and around Cape May. We changed our years old tradition two years ago from cooking and eating at my brother’s house to eating out at a local restaurant. While wary at first, it was wonderful! Everyone enjoyed it so much! More time to chat, no dishes, etc. So that is our new tradition! So it was cool to hear that Cape May has been a destination/tradition for you and your family! It’s a beautiful town…even more beautiful during the holiday stroll at Christmas time. So perhaps your mom will feel up to that experience…and…new tradtions begin! Good luck with your test this week…sending warm positive thoughts to you and to your mom!

  4. So glad your shopping expedition went well Barbara. Thanks for telling us about it. I am glad that you shared about stress and perfection in social gatherings Mary. I am the same way. Things have to be perfect and special or else! Why not make it casual and enjoy it? What a splendid idea! My friend invited a few gals over for lunch a while back and she fixed hot dogs and salad. Nothing fancy at all. I never would have thought of that. We had a great time, one of the best lunches I have been to in ages and so simple!

  5. Four years ago this October, my precious third son died from colorectal cancer. I had been a widow for many years but holding fast to our Holidays. However, with Rollin gone, I couldn’t face it that year. The other boys were still so overcome with their grief that there was no celebration; everyone sadly just got through the days.

    The next year, however, the oldest son had taken retirement and moved into a new home in Indian Lake with his companion. The youngest son had a steady girlfriend, as well, and he had inherited a beautiful home. I suggested turning over the Holidays to him. He had a daughter and grandchild, a girlfriend who was a great cook as well as my son, and it seemed the logical thing to do. John and Amy, now, are host and hostess and I bake the pies.

    I make a fresh balsam Christmas Grave blanket for my son immediately after Thanksgiving. He is still included in the family remembrances.

    Mary is right. Sometimes change is what is needed.

    1. Thank you for sharing that very personal part of your life Mary Lou…..the way that you have chosen to live is so inspiring…so profoundly humbling…so very helpful for putting life in perspective.

  6. Kathye….thank you so much for your story of Cape May, and for remembering my upcoming test! I adore Cape May, especially when the summer crowd has faded and it’s chilly and breezy. Walking on the deserted beach in the early morning of the Autumn season…well, it just doesn’t get any better than that. We have never been there past the Thanksgiving holiday, so I am taking into consideration your mention of the wonderful week in which they begin celebrating Christmas. That might be a really nice way to accommodate this change. Although it’s about 8 weeks away, enjoy your Thanksgiving as well (I also love Vermont)! And again, thanks for remembering my test. I will take those good vibes with me.

  7. I forgot to say I loved the little “stepping stone” images of you and your sibs. What cuties you were! Reminds me of holidays so many years ago.

  8. Thank you for sharing this with us, Mary. Such a nice picture of you and your siblings. Now that the days are getting cooler and the nights getting longer, it is natural to think of the upcoming holidays. It is such a blessing to have these people in your life to celebrate with. My Dad always says, “one thing you can always count on is change.”

  9. What a great picture of you with your siblings! I know that sometimes we like things just the way they are and any change is difficult. But as I get older I realize that it is good for us. I use to hate change but know I realize it is good for us, and it is nice to not have to always be in charge of everything and to relax. I am glad this is occurring to you too.

  10. Being the second girl of three sisters, and our brother the baby, your stepping stone picture reminds me so much of our Dad posing us like little stairs too Mary. In black and white of course! The fifties! I have to admit, seeing Christmas displayed in a big way already at Costco when it is still over 100 in the desert, I am not ready to think about the holidays quite yet. I do so miss true fall, – here in Arizona it just sort of peeters out from 110 to 90’s and then a glorious warm winter. But many seeds were planted here by everyone today, which I will need to consider as our family has grown by an almost engaged son whose girlfriend has a dear eight year old boy. And both of my sons in their own homes – do we still gather here at the parents who have the smallest home (but only true cook, haha!) or change it up? I’m all for changing it up, but we’ll see. Above all, I just wish for everyone to have a wonderful time, no matter where we gather. “Even rivers in the desert” has such meaning living in this arid place. I’m catching up with you all today in the afternoon – I miss my morning time at White Feather!

  11. It feels good to give up control once in a while. I usually resist, but then when I do give it up, and the world doesn’t fall apart, I feel a weight lifted. Something I need to do more often….

  12. The stepping stones picture of you and your siblings brought back happy memories (I’m one of eight children.) Thank you for this post. My sister and her husband cook our family an elegant Christmas dinner every year at their home, which comfortably holds our extended gang. But if the menu were changed to hot dogs and beans I wouldn’t mind a bit.

    I think it’s important that you took a chance and asked your brother to host the party. You’re very brave. A new tradition is born!

    1. Thank you Susan! You know, I was most concerned that my oldest son would be upset, and he said last night that he thought it was a great idea, and would be easier on me too…that alone was quite a gift to hear.

  13. How thought provoking. I have a very small family and have always done Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the same. This year I thought maybe it is time to ask my son and daughter if they’d like to do something different….I’ll gladly do the same thing, but maybe it is time for them to make the Holidays their own. I began the discussion in August, and they are still thinking it over. I see all these comments. Are “times” changing, or have we reached a certain age with a different viewpoint; have we finally realized we can’t be the center of everything any more, and the best gift we can give is to let the people we love find their own way while we can still be included?

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