Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Holiday Traditions

My husband and I moved from Buffalo, NY to Cherry Hill, NJ when our two girls were 3 and 9. We were the first of both of our families to leave the roost. Holidays were, and still are, the most difficult times to be away from loved ones. We found early on that while some holiday traditions we would continue here, we needed to make new traditions for ourselves - our family unit.

It was a few years after our move here, that I had the opportunity to be home preparing for Christmas since I was on maternity leave. David was born in August and I was returning to work in January. I was out Christmas shopping with my girlfriend Linda when she showed me the most beautiful book I have ever seen.

At the time I was teaching high school and my daughters were six and twelve. Linda showed me a picture book which I thought would be too young for my six year old. My girlfriend went on to talk about Chris Van Allsburg and his breathtaking artwork. I gently flipped through the pages and read this magical story. I reached the ending and stood in the store and cried. Well, that's not to say I was being somewhat hormonal anyway, but the spirit of the book exemplified what I wanted to say to my children about Santa Claus.

You see, at the age of 55 the bell rings clear for me. I did not have a sheltered childhood; my father died right before my 11th Christmas. But I never asked and I never wanted to be told. Instead, my mother read to me, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

The Polar Express was the best gift I could give my family that Christmas. And it happens to be one that keeps on giving. The second year Santa magically added "the bell" to all of our stockings. It has become a Christmas tradition in our household on Christmas Eve after driving around and looking at lights, then opening up "Buffalo" presents only, to read The Polar Express. Sometimes we take turns reading the book. My children and husband know that I choke up on the last page - and I'm not going to give it away here- so I may need help when I falter. Beth is now 32 and not always home for the reading. Jenny is 26 and has added her tradition of giving us Christmas pajamas to read it in! And the baby? David is 20 and the bell still rings for him as it does for us all.