The chaos of the Christmas season is almost behind me for another year. The Christmas tree remains up as the warmth of the ambience still softens the beginning of each morning. From Leila’s perspective the tree remains up until her birthday because it is just like Christmas. Not sure which day brings more excitement for her because she abounds in joy for both.
I feel like it has taken me a lifetime to actually grasp the concept of a full house in my home as the matriarch. For most of my life I shared gatherings in the homes of family and friends. Lots of memories based on love, laughter, and connection, yet a piece of the mystery on the ties that bind remained elusive. As a child/adolescent the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles invited the gang, the food was prepared and served, children played, and we all returned to our respective homes feeling closer to one another. As a single adult I would travel back to Sault Ste. Marie and in later years Southern Ontario would be added to the Christmas gatherings. Christmases at Root River Golf Course remain treasured memories. As the others prepared the scrumptious meals I filled my time playing with the children and ensuring each year the family would participate in some bonding activity.
Over the years I have hosted many a dinner or gathering and loved each and every one of them. They were the touchstones to remind me of what I loved most about being raised in my huge extended Italian family. People sharing time together with an agenda centred on building stronger relationships; more than creating memories, creating character and life direction. And yet, the piece of the mystery on the ties than bind remained elusive.
I would like to state unequivocally that it all changed the first year Leila arrived and the mystery was revealed, however that would be untrue as you might imagine the coming of a child before Christmas in 2009 probably was more confusing than enlightening. Our first Christmas was spent on the road to spend Christmas Eve at my sister, Terry’s in Dorchester and Christmas Day with my cousin, Marilyn in Stratford. I believe I was more on automatic pilot. Each Christmas with Leila has been a marvel. The preparations were more rote than anticipatory. Desperately wanting each Christmas to be perfect and full of wonder. What are the traditions I can set in place that will be remembered and cherished. What is too much? What is not enough? My annual Christmas letter began in 1981. Elf on the Shelf arrived 3 years ago and was promptly named Superman by Leila. She remembered he arrives the night the Santa Claus Parade, so some scrambling this year, as Santa was too tired to send him. Not to fear TiTi found Elf hiding in a most unusual place. The letter to Santa, the video email from Santa a couple of weeks before Christmas, the video message from the sleigh before church on Christmas Eve and the phone call just as she is brushing her teeth for bed. Attending the annual Living Nativity at Science North. Leila can tell you that Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday and spending time with family and friends first. Attending Christmas Eve mass with her Zio, Zia, and cousins, then back to the Dozzis for a light supper. Before bed we get to open one present, prepare Santa’s snacks, leave carrots for the reindeer, and place the magic key on the door. And each Christmas morning I would be the one who would get up first, then wait and wait and wait for the child to rise. Every Christmas people joined us for dinner and we enjoyed the camaraderie that would simply enrich the day.
And then this year my adult storybook Christmas came to pass; all of the traditions that began in 2010 were led and put into place by Leila. A very excited child that said, “TiTi wake up Christmas is here”, woke me up at 7 a.m.. And there I was with in my living room with Leila and her mother, Kristy, witnessing what many of you as parents and who are now grandparents have experienced in your lives; the complete bliss of family sharing an intimate moment of a joyful child on Christmas morning. This little family came together by the grace of God and for that I am most grateful.
This was only the beginning of the day and the understanding of the purpose not only of Christmas, everyday. There was no schedule to how the gifts would be unwrapped or a time limit. Leila would take breaks to play while her mother and I watched with smiles sprinkled with laughter. Kristy made her special French toast for breakfast, and then preparations for Christmas dinner began. We were to have a full house including 6 adults and 5 children. How do I know I was grasping the true meaning of Christmas? The only emotions I was feeling throughout the entire day were anticipatory of the fun ahead and excitement of having so many together to celebrate. No question the meal would be ready and there would be enough food. No question all the helping hands I required would be there willing and able. Who was the real kid this Christmas? Our guests came from my work and Leila’s school. All I had to do was extend the invitation and with each yes I simply became more grateful and happy. Leila has enriched my life. People are drawn in by her unique personality, her brilliance, her humour, her sweetness and and and… Christmas comes but once a year. This Christmas has given me the gift of understanding the purpose with clarity. Relationships and the moments that build the bonds are best based without expectations; it’s more about trust. Trust the people who bless your life are supposed to be there.
Happy New Year and all the best in 2014