Forget the Griswold Family Christmas. Our family does a much better job at food and festivities without electrocuting a cat and destroying a Christmas tree, though we have come close to doing both over the years. I promised Cuz I'd post about the party yesterday when I got home, but I really needed time to let the events of the day sink in. OK, that, plus I went to another Christmas party last night and was too tired to post by the time I rolled home. At any rate, this'll be a 2-parter, since I want to do justice to the hayride, as well.
A little background: This gathering is a tradition that's happened a week or so before Christmas for as long as I can remember. During those early years, most of the parties took place at the Ross mansion on Avon Avenue in Atlanta, though occasionally the crowd would pile into cars and travel up to the Frazier's estate in Chattanooga. Joking about the mansion (and the estate). The Avon house was tiny, and how we managed to pack in there year after year is beyond me. But we did.
While the tradition of too many people and too much food (both glorious excesses. to be sure) is still being honored, there once was a time of too many presents, as well. Why, you could hardly get into the house for the masses of gift-wrapped surprises under the tree. The Nashes would travel down from Granite City, Illinois, toting bags and bags of wrapped boxes. Aunt Mildred would stick the bows on after she got to Atlanta or Chattanooga. The Fraziers would roll in from Chattanooga with a trunk-load of festive packages to add to the already-groaning tree-area, though Mother never bothered with boxes. She was famous for her "soft packages."
The presents were always little things, or rather, inexpensive things. It was the thrill of seeing all those gifts under the tree and delighting not only in what you received, but what your brothers and sisters and cousins got, too.
But over the years, we did away with the present-giving, much to the dismay of the Kate-generation. Family and food were enough to keep up with, without having to figure out what to buy umpteen relatives.
So. Back to the here and now.
Cuz - of "remember the moosehead in the attic?" dispute - hosted the annual gathering of the clan at his farm in Dahlonega, Georgia, site of the nation's first gold rush (honest!). The cozy cabin-style farmhouse was packed to the rafters with folks of various shapes and sizes ranging from 5 months to 78 years old. It took each of us an hour or two to get through all the hugs and "how're ya' doin's" once we arrived.
It was cold and windy, as those of us who braved the hayride (see next post) can testify, but that only added to our Christmas spirit. The house was festively decorated. Cuz had even broken out Christmas photos of old and posted them on the kitchen cabinets. We saluted everyone who's joined us over the years, even some ex-spouses. Hey, they were once a part of this craziness, so why not?
As mentioned in previous posts, our pot-luck food theme this year was Italian. Now, you must understand how this flew in the face of the time-honored Southern food tradition of our family get-togethers. More than once yesterday, I heard someone say "Mildred/Catherine/Helen/Marie is/are rolling in her/their grave(s) over this!" Whatever grave-spinning we caused, the Italian pot-luck went down a treat. Lasagna and ravioli fit for a king, er, Caesar. Big bro's osso bucco was outstanding. Fabulous salads and antipasto munchies, plus nephew Matt's homemade Parmesan-black pepper biscotti provided day-long nibbling. Yum. And yes, the two Veniero's Italian cheesecakes made it from New York fine and dandy. I added a few blueberries and no one complained. Linda's Italian cream cake and Lil Sis's back-by-popular-demand Christmas cookies sated our sweet tooths. Teeth. Whatever.
In addition to the Italian theme, we also had a "new baby" theme. The family experienced a baby boom in 2007, as we welcomed Rowan, Elliott, and Sarah. They joined Tallulah, Cody, and Dylan (plus Bryleigh and Jaxson, who weren't at the party due to illness) to make up the new generation, as our sons and daughters start adding to the family tree. Yes, it's that season again - the re-birth season. It cycles through every 20 or so years - with the old folks (ahem!), young parents, babies. Then as the kids grow, the family gets to the no-baby stage until the once-babies grow up enough to start families of their own. It's all very reassuring!
And speaking of generations, the clan gathered for the annual generational photo ops. Sort of a State of the Family moment. One husband kept complaining that we always do this and then never see the pictures again. Well, I beg to differ (I have one of last year's as the wallpaper on my laptop at work), but I've posted them here so that you can see what a fine group of folks we are.
Though our mothers - all deceased - vowed and declared we'd never carry on this Christmas gathering tradition once they were gone, I believe they were with us in spirit yesterday(some of them may have been spinning spirits, however). How could they not rejoice that we were still gathering, and we do find family the most important thing, when all is said and done? Who knows us better than, well, us? And even though we went Italian instead of Southern, and though there are lots of new faces that they wouldn't recognize, I'll just bet the Bully Bartow Sisters are pleased as punch from their perches in Heaven.
And the Christmas beat goes on.
* Revised post: I added Cuz's food photo, though it shows just a teeny bit of what we chowed down on during the day. Wish I had that spinach dip in front of me right now!