2005/12/04

Every year my extended family (extended meaning perhaps 100+ people from 4 generations) gather for the traditional [insert family name here] Christmas party (not on Christmas but rather the Saturday after Thanksgiving). We sing songs, we catch up, we partake in an emceed talent show/storytelling time, we pass out the traditional S. Soup that is made (as is the tradition) the night before in a large, old, pot that used to belong to my grandmother. I should add that anything that I have heard once belonged to my grandmother has a special significance. I’ve never met her (I was only eight months old when she died), and I’ve heard very little about her. In fact, the most often told story about her is the one in which my mother, after letting H. (my grandmother) put me to bed late one evening while my parents were visiting, felt this sudden urge to check on me. She rushed into the room where I was sleeping and found that my grandmother had bundled me tightly in blankets—only leaving my feet outside of the blanket instead of my head. My grandmother had a brain tumor at the time. I am intrigued by the contradictions I’ve heard: she was stubborn, tough, strong of will yet she let my grandfather make and enforce the rules.

This year at the [insert family name here] Christmas Party, I was moved to laughter (which is typical) but also to tears. Usually the cousins and second cousins of my generation outgrow the talent show portion of the day around 12 or 13. This year, a group of my twenty-something second cousins gathered in front of us to play Teach Your Children Well. It was beautiful. I had tears in my eyes. Those peaceful minutes made me love my family, reminded me how much I love this tradition of gathering. I honestly could look around and see people beaming and clasping hands and wiping away tears and dancing, dancing for B., my dad’s cousin who had left us just a few days earlier. She had declared before she died that she’d be "dancing, dancing 24/7 in heaven." Some of these people were dancing with her, in memory of her. I tried to capture a small piece of these moments. It’s brief and shaky, but it might take you there—to the beaming, to the clasping, to the calm that was present for those few short minutes one Saturday afternoon.

For the brief and shaky clip, click here:

Teach Your Children Well

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