The holidays have different meanings to everyone. For me, they are a time of remembrance. I was born the youngest of eight kids which created a lot of energy in the house come Christmas time. My mother always went out of her way to create massive events for the holidays. Because my father was an entertainer on the Las Vegas Strip for over a decade, my mom’s parties even landed in the local newspaper once. They were affairs to remember for sure. Even when it was just the family, she and my older sister Cecilia would put together a spread of food that I honestly can still taste to this day. They were very special times indeed.
I remember seeing rows of presents lined up for the entire family on Christmas morning. My eldest brother Charlie used to keep the anticipation running by timing out the unwrapping. Every time the minute changed on the clock we would tear into the next package. Our goal was to reach the biggest one lined up in back. As a young kid I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Time went by and things changed as they inevitably do. But our story took a tumultuous turn. We lost Charlie. We lost Cecilia. We lost my other sister Cathy. And eventually we lost my mom. Without my mother to create her magic in the kitchen something felt off. But the rest of the family rallied to get things together the way she would’ve because my dad (we called him Pop) deserved the best. It was also a way of keeping my mom’s spirit, along with my brother and sisters, alive in our memories at Christmas time.
In 2012, our beloved Pop went to be with the rest of the family in Heaven. He was always the cornerstone that kept everything together. Even when we experienced the other losses, we had Pop there. With him gone things changed. The big festive dinners don’t take place anymore. Each of the rest of us are scattered across town now. But because we’re still in the same town we try to make a point of getting together as often as we can.
Holidays now have a different meaning for us. As I said in the beginning, it’s more about remembrance. I remember everything about those carefree days of my youth spent getting under foot while my mom cooked in the kitchen. As I got older, she and I would do the baking together. We’d put together plates of cookies and treats for the neighbors and other friends. I still do that to this day. Those special times live on with me. I try to recapture them every day, not just at Christmas time.
Life is short. I’m met with a gentle reminder of that every year starting in October when I’m faced with the first of the birthdays. November brings another, then December, and into January. Stacked on top of that are the holidays which can already be stressful and emotional without everything that’s happened. But y’know what? We’re still here. And as long as there is breath in my body I will cherish each Christmas and new year as it comes around.
Guest Author- Cynthia Vespia
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