A memory from my childhood that still impacts me is family time for every little holiday. My mother’s side of the family has always celebrated everything. We did everything together. Family time was the most important thing for us. My favorite memory was picking out a Christmas tree for the house and decorating as a family.
Christmas tree shopping was always a family affair. My grandfather would pile as many of his grandchildren into his truck and head to Hollywood Park Casino Christmas Tree lot. Before we left the house, we would have to get the instructions from my grandmother. We had to know how tall of a tree she wanted and whether she wanted a Flocked tree or not. Once we arrived at the lot it was go time. Everyone would run around trying to find the best tree. I loved that my grandfather would let us just run around and be free to find the best tree for the family. I have always been a planner so I would have a list of items I was looking for in my tree. I had the pros and cons of what would make a great tree. Since I was limited on the height of the tree, my focus was the fullness of the tree. My grandmother loved adding lots of ornaments, lights and tinsel on the tree which meant we needed to find the fullest tree on the lot. Douglas Fir were my favorite trees so I would always go to that side to start my search. We would be at the lot for about 30-45 minutes searching for the tree because Grammie was back at the house with the Christmas music playing, hot chocolate brewing and dinner ready. I found the perfect tree and had to convince my cousins it was the one. We would have about 3 trees to pick from. I remember the one time my cousin did not pick the tree I worked so hard to find. I was devastated. My grandfather had to pull me to the side and remind me of the reason we were there in the first place. This trip was all about family time and love. My grandfather was good at de-escalating problematic situations. He told me picking out the tree together is the way our families come together as one to pick the perfect tree to symbolize our family love.
To this day, decorating the Christmas tree is an important tradition that I have kept with my own family. We added an additional tradition to Christmas decorating. Every year we get a new ornament for the tree. Most times we pick one based on what we did that year, however, sometimes it’s just a cute ornament we find in the store that we ALL must agree on. Decorating day starts with deciding which Christmas movie we are going to watch while decorating. It usually is Home Alone as it’s one of my favorite movies but sometimes I let the kids decide on something else. We pull out all the containers full of decorations. This is truly a whole day event. When the kids were younger it was so much fun because they got so involved. Now, I have a short window because they want to rush through it and get back to their rooms. Usually that’s the time I put my Christmas music on and jam out for the rest of the decorating. I used to love going to search for the perfect tree every year at the Christmas lot, however, the quality of trees vs the price of trees has changed over the years. Four years ago, I talked to my husband about getting a fake tree. My argument was, we pay one fee and have the perfect tree for years to come. I can make it tall, short, fluffy, or bare minimum. Once he heard we did not have to spend money every year on a tree that we only would have for 4 weeks, that was all he needed to know.
Spending time with family is what keeps a smile on my face. It’s time to eat good, laugh and just enjoy each other’s presence. My best friends were my cousins. We had so much time when we were together. We spent so much time with our grandparents. Good Friday was the time we planted the family garden in the backyard. My grandfather would let us all pick a vegetable that we wanted to plant. Everyone had a job. I was not a fan of the dirt so I would come in after all the digging happened and drop the seeds in the hole. I am sure my cousins were annoyed with me because they were doing all the hard work. We always talk about our trips to the park. We would pile up in my grandfather’s truck that had no real seats in the back and definitely no seatbelts. We would drive down Florence and take the big heel to Centinela Park. One trip we hit the dip and thought we were all going to fly out the back of the truck. Best. Day. Ever! We went to the park to go swimming, do scavenger hunts, and have family picnics. Just having the time together as a family is what I remember from my childhood. Having these memories and great times as a family is what shaped me as a mom. I made sure to keep my kids involved in all things family. We even started a “cousin’s day” so we could all spend the day together, which oftentimes turned into a whole weekend affair.
Moving to Maryland away from family has been a struggle. I have missed out on so many family events. It’s so hard. I miss it. I miss my family. The first year here in Maryland we were traveling back and forth switching between holidays, but it still was not enough. I wish I could get the family here in Maryland for another “cousin’s day,” but I know it’s too big of an ask. I need to figure out a way to get cousin’s day back. I need that family time again. Not having this time with them is making me so sad. Keeping up with family traditions is what keeps the family going. My plan is to get together with some of my cousins to plan our next cousin’s day. I saw a reel online and it showed how some cousins took a trip and rented a big house to have a cousin’s weekend. That would be perfect for us since some of us have moved out of state and the others are in California. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I took a leap of faith and moved, but sometimes I sit back and think about all that I gave up. However, I am going to turn things around and start planning for more family events across the states. Because one thing is certain…I refuse to give up on traditions!