My family was never one for lots of traditions. We didn’t have organized mealtimes around the table like other families did. We didn’t go to my grandparents’ house for Easter or take a family vacation every year. But we did have a few things we tended to repeat year after year. Every Halloween, my mom and I would do a craft project where we would cut out pieces of construction paper to make paper faces on orange paper pumpkins. For a number of years, my maternal grandparents would visit for Thanksgiving and my grandpa, a talented cook, would whip up a veritable feast. And every Christmas, we would pack our dog in a car full of stuff and drive four hours to visit my other grandpa and my dad’s sister in New Jersey.
I loved this trip. We would get to stay in a different place, the dog running excitedly up and down the kitchen. There was a huge, extensively decorated tree. My aunt, with no kids of her own, doted on me and we would do all kinds of craft projects together. There was a piano at which I would have a blast sitting and playing made up gibberish. And, as a kid, the highlight of it all would be the night when we would all sit together in a big circle around the living room and open presents. I unwrapped some of my favorite childhood possessions sitting cross-legged on that blue carpet.
When my parents divorced, we stopped having New Jersey Christmases. That was the paternal side of my family; my brother and I primarily lived with my mom.
The second year of college, in 2009, I decided on a whim to go back and have Christmas with my aunt and grandpa again.
Then I kept going back. In 2011, my dad came along. The next year, my brother started going.
Of all the traditions to have and to keep, this is the one I am happiest to have revived.