As we approach the time known as the holiday season, I, as most years, think back to a simpler time -- 1975, or thereabouts. What, you don’t recall the '75 as being particularly pleasant or simple? Okay, it wasn't, really, but I was only about 8 years old and it seemed tranquil compared to, say, my years in high school.
As an aside, I think that is why many people seem to think "life was simpler then" -- they were kids and life was simpler -- for them.
Anyhow, in those golden days of Watergate, gas lines and the fall of Saigon, and on through the pleasant era of inflation, hostage crises and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, my family had an established and welcome pattern to its holidays.
July 4 was for a time spent at my Aunt Audrey and Uncle Bill's house. Bill ran a trucking company which shipped cattle all over the country. They therefore had a huge caliche rock drive and parking area, perfect for fireworks. My parent's home town was so small that not only was there no ordinance banning fireworks in the city limits, the fireworks stand itself was across the street from the county court house and next to the waterworks.
Thanksgiving was spent at our (my grandfather's old) house there. Mom got the dressing (stuffing) started early and one or two older cousins of mine would come over to taste test it before she put it in the oven. Mom's dressing was justifiably famous in the family. Later more and more people would show up and eventually we would stuff ourselves silly, scattered all over the kitchen, living room, and back porch while the Dallas Cowboys played some sacrificial lamb on TV.
Christmas was spent at Aunt Hasey and Uncle John's place, which was just across the road from Audrey and Bill's. We would gather there Christmas Eve. Mom was invariably the last to arrive. Finally (after what seemed hours to us kids) Hasey would plant herself under the tree and hand us presents, telling us little ones to whom they were to be delivered. These gifts were from family members to other family members. Eventually, all the gifts would be distributed and we could rush back to our own piles to rip the paper off and see what goodies we got. At some point, carolers would wander by. Then we went to bed at our various places to await Christmas Day and Santa's goodies. It was a good time to be a kid.
If we lack for anything these days, it is that sense of family ritual at the holiday season. I realize now that there were tensions and cross-currents I knew nothing about, and what I really want is something I can't have without being 8 again. Still and all, I wish we could do the Big Family Holiday Thing.