A first time grandma reflects on the changes a baby brings to holiday family gatherings
By Lisa Alleman
Thanksgiving 2018. We gather around my dining room table to eat our turkey dinner with urgency. Unlike other years, the turkey is not the main event. My daughter, who is 5 months pregnant with our first grandchild, has decided that on this, her favorite holiday, surrounded by family, she will find out the gender of her baby. We all take our guesses and video them for posterity. She opens the envelope from the ultrasound technician. It’s a boy! Cheers all around! This first grandchild in our family will be a grandson and we are one step closer to imagining his place at this table.
Christmas Eve 2018. Next year’s generational shift will provide new titles — Mommy, Daddy, Aunt, Uncle, Gigi, Poppy — but this year, we remain who we have always been to one another which gives our gathering a certain preciousness. I assemble my grown children on the staircase for our annual “waiting for Santa picture.” My children insist that they have outgrown this tradition but, for nostalgia’s sake, I insist. We move to the family room for drinks, appetizers, conversation and the leisurely opening of gifts. We reminisce about when they (my now grown children) were the babies in this room and wonder how the new baby will make our gatherings different.
Thanksgiving 2019. It is all different, but in ways we didn’t see coming. The loss of one of those four great-grandparents this summer feels like an open wound as we gather for a holiday meal without him for the first time. The sadness of seeing that empty place at the table is softened by the smiles and laughter of an 8 month old in a high chair, oblivious to our pain.
December 2019. This year the decorations dragged down from the attic are assessed for possible risk they could pose to a near-toddler. At my daughter’s house that concern leads to a gate bungee corded around a fireplace and a Christmas tree placed behind a couch. It’s less of a compromise at (my) Gigi’s house. I place all the decorations in their normal locations and then allow my new grandson to explore those decorations with me. I watch his hands closely as I watch him take in all the sparkles and glows.
Christmas Eve 2019. I take the staircase “waiting for Santa” picture which is more crowded this year. Everyone seems a little more enthusiastic this year as they coax smiles from a 9 month old. We proceed to the family room, excited to show one another the gifts we have for the baby. Meanwhile, the 9 month old is most excited by a random box amidst the torn wrapping paper on the floor.
The Holidays 2020
All the grown people are eager to gather with the 21 month old this holiday season. His innocent joy reignites our sense of wonder. We smile more, we laugh more, we get down on the floor and play. We shake off the chill of December and are drawn to the warmth he radiates and shares with all of us when he arrives at GIgi’s house.