Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Traditions and a Homecoming Surprise - Lilly Gayle

Holiday Traditions and a Homecoming Surprise
Lilly Gayle

Growing up, my family had strict traditions regarding the holidays. From the time my family moved to North Carolina when I was ten until I married at age twenty, we followed the same rituals. We'd rise early to see what Santa brought us before driving the mile and half down the road to my paternal grandparents' home for breakfast. My dad's three brothers, their wives, and all my cousins were there. It was crowded and loud, but it was fun.

After my husband and I had children, we spent the night at my parents' house so we could follow those same traditions. But my grandmother was the glue that held my extended family together. My grandfather died first and then after my grandmother died, we didn't see much of my father's family during the holidays any more. My dad and his brother's families started their own traditions, but things just weren't the same.

My siblings and their families continued to gather at my mom and dad's house. At first, everyone spent the night and my two daughters loved being with their cousins on Christmas Eve. It became a ritual as important to me as the family traditions I enjoyed growing up. But nothing ever stays the same and as my girls got older family traditions altered a bit more. Soon it was just my daughters and one other cousin who spent the night at my parents' house. Then the year before my oldest daughter graduated from high school, we started spending Christmas Eve at home and going to my parents' house for breakfast.

Despite the changing traditions, Christmas was always Christmas and family spent time together. Until…

In 2006, my oldest daughter married a soldier four days after Christmas. By March, they were living in Germany. That first Christmas without her was hard, especially for my younger daughter who missed her sister as much as her dad and I did. Thank God for Skype!

On Christmas Eve, we hooked my laptop up to the television and coordinated a time to exchange gifts simultaneously. We'd mailed our packages to them and they had mailed theirs to us. So, we were able to share in the gift unwrapping experience. It wasn't the same as being together, but it was better than missing out completely.
The next year, my daughter and son-in-law were able to come home for the holidays. It was the one and only time in the six years he was in the army. By 2012, my daughter told us they were coming home. For good. They hoped to arrive by December 20th, weather permitting. So, I was on pins and needles, waiting and praying for their safe arrival. God willing, my baby would be home for Christmas!

Like Christmas, my family had always followed traditions for Thanksgiving too, but as families grew and expanded, traditions changed. And last year, I hosted Thanksgiving at my house. My youngest daughter had moved out and was living on her own—another change I had to get used to—and she was late getting to my house for Thanksgiving lunch. When she finally drove up, I went to the front door to meet her…and found my oldest daughter on the doorstep with her. She had arrived a month early. It was her first Thanksgiving at home since the year before she'd gotten married.
I've never been so happy or surprised in my entire life. My baby was home to stay—only she wasn't. She'd come home early because she believed her husband was getting out of the army earlier than expected. By the time she arrived at the airport, he'd gotten some unexpected news. The army had hired him as a civilian air traffic controller in the same tower where he'd spent his six years in service. It was an opportunity they couldn't pass up. So, by February, my daughter and son-in-law were once again living in Germany—possibly for three more years.

I'm not sure if they'll be home for Christmas this year or not. They're planning on it, but I've learned over the years that plans, like traditions, change. I've also learned that it's not about when or where you spend the holidays. It's about taking the time to be with family and friends and letting them know how very much you love them.

For more holiday fun, visit me at where I am one of 7 hostesses or drop by my personal blog any Friday in December: a Rafflecopter giveaway


Unknown said...

Its difficult - when by choice or by circumstances in life - we have to change our traditions for our children.

Liz Flaherty said...

Oh, I loved it. I'm sitting here crying as though it were me--and it has been. Traditions need to have elasticity to keep their strength, something we learn as our children grow up.

Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks Charlotte and Liz. I'm happy to say that my daughter and her husband were able to come home again this year. They arrived yesterday but I don't get to see them until tomorrow. I have to share them with her inlaws. :-( We're even splitting Christmas up, but at least she is home for the next 14 days. It's the best Christmas present ever.

Hannah Meredith said...

I love the simultaneous gift exchange via the internet. For all our scattered families, this sounds like a tradition in the making.

rbooth43 said...

I'll never forget your surprize last year! Having them home is the best present! Also if any commenters haven't read OUT OF THE DARKNESS and EMBRACE THE DARKNESS, you are missing two amazing reads!
Merry Christmas to all your family!

Lilly Gayle said...

Hannah, 4 of the last 7 Christmases would have been so sad had we not been able to Skype and open gifts with my daughter and SIL. Made missing her bearable. Rebecca, thanks for being so supportive! So glad you've enjoyed my books. Hoping to finish at least 2 in 2014. Fingers crossed!