Stress is Relative


If you don’t want the stress, get rid of the relatives.

As the holiday season comes to a close many of us feel that we have had more than enough time to “reconnect” with some family members.  We all know them.  At my house we have a subtle cue to let them know it is time to go home, “I love you.  Go home.”

What I want to talk about though are the family members that are no longer with us.  There are many people from my childhood that I spent many a Christmas and Thanksgiving with who have gone on ahead.  My great-grandparents passed away not too long after I got married.  My grandfather passed away after my youngest son was born.  My grandmother passed away just a few years ago.  Great aunts and uncles that were integral parts of my childhood have all passed away.  I have a full treasury of memories from time spent with these wonderful people.  Memories that have been shared with my children.  This year I was able to have many of them participate in our Christmas celebration and what a joy it was.

My youngest child is an eight-year-old girl.  She is loving, joyful, excitable and has a very tender heart.  Her family (immediate and extended) is the most important thing in her little life.  Family gatherings are “the best day ever!”  Her favorite stories are about things we did as a family growing up.  She was very close to my grandmother during the first four years of her life.  They spent most afternoons together while I was working and my mother was working on her book.  They made cookies.  Grandma taught her to read.  They watched movies and colored.  They bowled on the Wii.  Grandma even taught her how to play tidily winks.  We went on regular lunch outings and she knows her favorite food at many local restaurants.  When my grandmother passed away it was devastating.  She would sit at the bottom of the stairs leading to Great-Grandma’s apartment and look so forlorn.

This year I was able to bring her great-grandma back to her along with several other family members she has not met.  My daughter’s Santa list contained only three things one of which was a new doll house.  Having little to no Christmas funds this year I decided to share my doll house with her.  It does have something that appeals to the most tender parts of her heart.  Many family stories and a history.  It was a family project given to me on my eighth Christmas.

It had been in storage for 15 years and was an absolute mess.  The paint was chipped and a window sill had broken off.  The original 70’s shag carpet was matted and disgusting.  The linoleum in the bathroom was curled.  I did have, however, all the original pieces that came with it.  As I scrubbed it, repaired it, and painted it with the help of my niece and her husband all the memories came out and I shared them with my assistants.  The house was made by my grandfather and carefully measured to the scale of 1″ to the foot.  The beautiful staircase and railing was made by my great-grandfather.  All the curtains had been sewn by my grandmother.  The two brass bed frames had been made by my great-uncle.  The matching bedding had been crocheted and sewn by my great-aunt.  My great-grandmother had covered the livingroom furniture.  All had participated in the assembling of much of the furniture kits.  The arguments of how everything was to be arranged are legendary.  My grandfather finally put his foot down and said that whoever had the house got to arrange the furniture.  Apparently it travelled.  On Christmas morning I saw this beautiful house and was absolutely delighted.  I played with it all day.  My grandmother and great-grandmother kept trying to tell me how to arrange the furniture until they were told that I could arrange it any way I wanted during the day but they could play with it after I went to bed.

On Christmas morning my daughter (who never even knew that I had a doll house) was ecstatic.  As we explored it together I was able to tell her the stories.  A physical house and furnishings with attached stories brought my family back this Christmas.  She was excited to see the things that my grandmother had made.  She laughed when I told her about the arguments over furniture arrangement.  She is intrigued at the hand-made bed frames.  We called my great-uncle now in his 80’s just to tell him of the passing on of this doll house to a new generation.  He was a little surprised but really enjoyed reminiscing with my mother over its creation.  As I watched my daughter play in it most of Christmas day I could see grandparents and great-grandparents watching over her.  I know how deeply touched they would be to see the passing on of the wonderful heritage they had left me.

It was so wonderful to have them with us again this Christmas.  I have missed them terribly over the years and am happy to have had to opportunity to introduce my daughter to them.

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