MawMaw and The Holidays

This morning felt a little different. It was a darker than normal which is usually the first hint that Fall is around the corner. It feels so weird to say that, since the normal ebb and flow of the year has been disrupted by all that has been going on. I almost feel like we hit pause on the world back in March and nothing has progressed since. Of course, the seasons wait for no one, so Fall is coming and so is Winter which means Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are just around the corner.

I'm not sure why the holidays were on my mind, but I guess I thought about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and whether or not it would happen and if spectators would be allowed. I felt a twinge of sadness at the thought of it not happening, but that empathy was for others, not myself because the parade hasn't really meant all that much to me over the years.

I didn't grow up watching the parade. Sure, I watched parts of it here and there, but it wasn't a tradition for me or my family. As an adult, I've turned it on occasionally, but the stereotypical day of parade, turkey, and football is just not something I'm used to.

Holidays weren't ever a huge deal for my family. My grandmother always went all out, but we didn't establish traditions and when my parents divorced that disturbed things further. I actually began to hate holidays as time went on since most of the time I spent my holidays traveling between parents and grandparents, and it was most exhausting than fun. By the time I moved out on my own, I swore off decorating for holidays and decided to be a Scrooge about everything.

That lasted seven or eight years, before I really started missing the idea of celebrating the holidays. I got back into watching holiday movies and I bought a Christmas tree. I started decorating my apartment and while I didn't go too crazy, I did just enough that I was comfortable and not over encumbered.

Obviously my little attempts at making the holidays my own didn't make up for the lack of traditions or cohesive family, but I started a tradition of my own which was watching holiday episodes of 90's sitcoms. Every Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I dig into my favorite sitcoms from my youth and spend the holidays with my favorite characters. My goal is to one day design my own holiday DVD sets containing my favorite episodes, but I'm still discovering new ones and I haven't put it in the time to make that happen yet.

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in Memphis but the five or six years prior to that I spent them with my grandmother. Every Thanksgiving my mom and step-dad would go visit his family, which left my grandmother alone on Thanksgiving. My brother and I would spend our Thanksgiving with her. It was nice because she was one heck of a cook and always put a lot of effort into decorating and making her place feel special for the holidays.

I recall showing up while the parade was still on, catching up with her and my brother before enjoying a nice dinner at her dining room table. She'd pull out the good dishes and cloth napkins and we'd all enjoy whatever feast she put together. She'd have to prepare two dishes, since my brother is vegan, but I fondly remember the last dinner being a huge bone in chicken breast that she panned fried along with some fresh mashed potatoes, rolls, and green beans. After dinner, we enjoyed slices of cheesecake she picked up. It maybe wasn't the most traditional dinner, but it was good.

I think this memory glows so brightly for a couple of reasons:

  1. She passed away last year.
  2. It was similar to some of the best memories of my childhood.

As previously mentioned, my grandmother was the one person who went all out for the holidays. She'd had nice decorations that she brought out and she'd play Christmas music both at home and in her car. She built beautiful holiday displays at work and there was just something warm and comforting about those times with her. I think it was because she didn't just sling cheap decorations everywhere, but she intentionally decorated with some solid pieces that made her apartment feel classy.

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother following my parent's divorce and I credit a lot of my childhood interests to that time. She made sure that the time we spent with her, we spent it as children and not young people being forced to adapt. We enjoyed cartoons, trips to the library, and toys. Everyday she'd make dinner, lay out a huge towel on the coffee table, and we'd eat sitting on the floor while watching Full House and Ducktales. It was a bright spot in my childhood that occurred when everything seemed so dark, and those few Thanksgivings where it was just me, her, and my brother, were sort of a progression of those times. I wish I would have appreciated them a little more while they were occurring.

I will say, that last Thanksgiving together in 2018, I remember sitting on the couch and proclaiming that this is what the holidays should be like. Calm, enjoyable dinner, good conversation in a location that felt special. Then again, I'm sure the nostalgia of being around her decorations played a huge part in all of that. My brother was fiercely defensive of my other family members who weren't in attendance, but for a few minutes I appreciated what I had.

I'm not sure what the holidays will bring this year. My mother was so distraught at my grandmother's death last year, she wanted to do something that wasn't normal and didn't remind her of my grandmother, so we all brought Asian dishes. Now with the state of the world I have no real expectations for this holiday season. I guess, I hope that maybe everyone can find some patience and kindness and we can end this year better than we began it.

I'm gonna enjoy my 90's sitcoms. I found a great Christmas episode of Wings a few months back where Joe gets in a fight at a video store and it'll be a great addition to my normal viewings of Roseanne, Home Improvement, Sabrina, and Just Shoot Me.