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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Unconditional Love

I promised to tell the story of our Holiday Party. So here it is. When I was small we would go to my great aunt's house for a Fourth of July picnic and a holiday open house. We would drop in other times, but we were always there for those occasions. They were the most welcoming people you could imagine. They kept a notepad on the back porch so you could leave a message if you stopped by when they weren't home. While I was sad when they weren't home, I loved opening that box and getting to write the message. I tried to use my neatest handwriting to make sure they could read who was there.

The Fourth of July was a potluck in the garage porch. It sounds funny writing it that way, but that was pretty much how I remember it. The food would be set out on the screen porch and we we play and run and eat all day. At some point when I was in high school or middle school the Fourth of July party moved to my parents house. Endless hours of badminton, swinging, spelling bees, eating...

But my Aunt and Uncle always had their Christmas open house. It went on all day. Aunt would greet you at the door with a mug of soup. I always had chicken noodle. The food was laid out in the dining room. It was incredible. Aunt had spent time as a professional baker and she was a world class cook. There was always something new and different. I remember tiny miniature hamburgers in the seventies, long before sliders were popular. The cookies were perfect. I can still taste the cinnamon stars. I've tried to make them, but they never are the same. Even the vegetables tasted good at Aunt's house. The serving dishes were fancy and the presentation was gorgeous.

There was a toy cupboard under the stairs. The toys there were magical. I can't even begin to tell you what they were but they were shiny and small and perfect. The cousins of all generations still talk about the toy cupboard. (No really, last week we were talking about it on Facebook!) It was a special time. A time out from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. We would go and the uncles and aunts would sit and talk and eat. I don't ever remember us kids getting unruly. We dressed up. We behaved. We ate and played and enjoyed.

As a young adult, I would stop in and visit them on my way too and from grad school. It was a joy. They exuded unconditional love. We would talk current events, family, hopes, dreams whatever seemed to be the thing. Every time, Aunt would go to the freezer and pull out some treat for a snack. She showed me her freezer once. It was as magical as the toy cupboard. Some parts of grad school were difficult for me and yet I could stop in and visit Aunt and Uncle and regain my perspective and be renewed.

My aunt became ill when I was still in school. For a couple years, I hosted the family Fourth of July party. My aunt was able to attend. We opened the time capsule. We had a wonderful time. And then she was gone.

I have always said that I inherited the holiday party from my aunt. After she passed away, I started having the party. I invited all of the relatives, my friends, neighbors and co-workers. I always aspired to Aunt's level of hospitality. In the early days, we had little money to go to fancy places so we started the tradition of Formal Attire Allowed. To this day you will see everything from blue jeans to Tuxedos at the party. Each of the spuds wore tuxes from the time they were born until they were in grade school.

I continued to visit Uncle for several years, until he moved away to be closer to his family. He had a sale when he downsized. I ended up with a wonderful chair, a dresser and Aunt's sewing machine. I sit in Uncle's chair when I blog. I am there now. It still wraps me in that feeling of love.

It has always been called Uncle's chair. When spud one was tiny, Uncle came to the Christmas party. I re-introduced him to Uncle. He looked at Uncle, looked at the chair, looked and Uncle and grabbed his hand. He dragged Uncle over to the chair and told him "That is YOUR chair." I don't recall who was sitting there at the time, but little spud one made them leave and installed Uncle. Uncle's smile that day is a precious memory.

So, for almost 30 years, I have been hosting a holiday party. The date changes, the guest list changes, some of the menu changes but it is always Formal Attire Allowed, the soup is always on the stove and there is always room for one more. And I always say a little prayer of thanks for having been the recipient of Aunt and Uncle's love.

Linky Party Tuesday


  1. The picture was respectfully borrowed from my cousin's FB page. I think they are beautiful.

  2. Oh my. That is a beautiful, heartfelt story. I'm so happy that you shared it with me and so proud of you for carrying on the traditions of your family. What a perfectly wonderful legacy. I'm on the verge of tears. I love the image of you sitting in Uncle's chair and from now on...when I read your blog...I'll think of you there. Thank you for opening my heart.

  3. It is a pleasure to know you and your family. I felt like I was there in that cupboard under the stairs. Now when I read your blogs I too will imagine you in his chair. I didn't have the early years like you and I'm so glad you shared. How wonderful for you to carry on this great tradition. You have made my day, filled my heart with joy and I imagine I'll reread this to feel the warmth and love of your Aunt. Thank you.

  4. Hi Charlene your great aunt and uncle left memories that will last a lifetime. I enjoyed reading about your family tradition from past to present. Thanks for sharing it made my day.

  5. What wonderful, wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing. I feel as if I was there. Maybe you should make a memory quilt with a toy cupboard on it.

  6. What precious memories and how great that you carry on the traditions!

  7. Billie, what a great idea. I will have to think about how best to do that. Thank you.