I love holidays. I love the decorations, the traditions, the one time a year activities like pumpkin patches and Christmas tree farms, and I love (x one million) the leftovers; but my favorite part of every holiday is spending time with my family. (Side note: speaking of leftovers, I’m sitting here eating the pumpkin upside down cake that my mom made. It is coated with a hearty serving of whipped cream, and I can sit behind my computer screen and eat the pile of whipped cream shame free.)
I have mentioned in some of my other posts that I have a large, close family both on my mother’s side and my father’s side. Both sides get along so well, and I could not find words to describe how it makes me feel when I am at a family party and see my four grandparents sitting and laughing together. I know that I am lucky to be a stone’s throw away from 30 and have my grandparents, and that my son gets to spend time with his great grandparents.
As you can imagine, over the span of 30 years the amount of traditions have grown, but they have also changed. We have our Polish traditions that we stick to on Wiglia (Christmas Eve) like waiting for the first star to come out before we eat, or my grandmother passing around the oplotki (host) and each person breaks off a piece of the blessed host as she kisses our cheeks and prays we have a healthy and happy life. In that moment it makes you feel like you have the world at your fingertips and that everything will work out.
After dinner someone, usually my 85-year-old grandfather who has more energy and enthusiasm than the children, will ring a bell and announce that Santa had brought presents. The children barrel down the steps to see the family room filled with presents. They never see us sneaking them in to set up, and it helps keep the Christmas spirit and magic alive.
When it comes to my father’s side we have our Christmas dinner with delicious homemade spaghetti and meatballs. The night ends with all of us opening up the stockings that my Grandma handmade for us when we were born. Those stockings are like Golden Tickets from Willy Wonka: they are rare and not just handed out to everyone. In order to have a handmade stocking, complete with your name and birth year stitched on it, you either have to be a family member or marry into the family. It is a pretty good incentive to get married- these stockings are coveted!
The stockings always have oranges in them and kumquats, which are essentially miniature oranges. Every year they end up being thrown around the room. One year my brother overshot his throw and pelted me in the chest with an orange. I said we have a long list of traditions, I didn’t say we were mature about them all.
I was fortunate enough today to have an Easter lunch with my grandparents at my cousin’s house on my mom’s side, followed by a visit to my grandparents on my dad’s side. That is a lot of love to pack into one day. There were so many times that several of us laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes.
We snuck in conversations with each other on the sly to check in and make sure everyone is doing okay. I have been struggling lately with several medical conditions along with my usual anxiety and depression, and the fact that people take time to genuinely check in on me made my heart soar and it was desperately needed.
With leftovers packed (I scored tons of stuffing!) we headed to visit my father’s parents. My grandfather brought out a container of tinker toys and blocks for my son to play with while we visited. They were the same toys that I used to play with when I was young. While B. played with the toys my grandmother helped me bandage up a burn on my arm that was the result of a cooking accident. As she lovingly helped me with the band aid I laughed and pointed out that decades might have passed, but I am still that same little girl running to her to help with scrapes and bruises.
My grandfather is brilliant and can fix anything. He is sharp as a tack and also has a green thumb that could rival a botanical garden. Somewhere in our shoebox of photos I have a photo of me as a toddler standing in front of his flowers, little me being engulfed by these vibrant, gorgeous petals. My favorites were always the sunflower, and they are still my favorite flowers. He is the one responsible for the jars of sealed tomatoes that make our pasta sauce for Christmas. Personally, I think his dill pickles are the best items that he cans, but he makes a variety of different foods, so everyone’s choice varies. (Hey, Grandpa, since you read this blog, now is the time to set aside a jar of dill pickles for me, please and thank you!)
My grandmother is absolutely brilliant and incredibly talented when it comes to making quilts and afghans- among her man other talents. I’m currently snuggled under one as I write this. She made several large quilts over the years and stored them away. Once my cousins and I started getting married she had us come over and pick out what quilt we wanted to start off our married life. My husband and I chose a gorgeous one with fall colors that is aptly titled “Double Wedding Ring,”
Today she showed us her latest masterpiece, which is essentially looks like a round starburst and it is made out of different ties. It is different and looks so cool. I honestly cannot wait to see the finished project. I told her she was making Pinterest cool items before Pinterest was even around.
As we walked back to the living room after looking at the tie quilt I noticed that the quilt that usually hung on the wall had been swapped out for the one that I have pictured in this article. My jaw dropped and I stopped dead in my tracks to tell her how insanely gorgeous I found the hanging quilt. It wasn’t just the color scheme that caught my eye or the amount of precise lines sewn into the fabric. What I loved was the vintage feeling behind it, and you know I am a sucker for vintage items.
I told Grandma that out of all of the pieces I have ever seen of hers, this one was my favorite. She went on to tell me the story behind the fabrics, and I was blown away. She pointed out little details that told a story. The one piece of fabric on the bottom, middle square came from her mother’s old petticoat. On the top, right square the intricately beaded bow was an embellishment on a shoe. The buttons in the small, red square that is right above the middle square are buttons that came from a collection of buttons that have been collected over years. The right side, middle square was a vintage handmade, hand painted hanky, which has a border of intricate weaving.
Every stitch of the quilt told a story. It contained so much of my family’s history between items from my great grandmother, to the amount of effort my grandmother put in to complete the project. The quilt that had caught my eye to begin with went to the next level when I was told the backstories of the pieces.
I was sitting in bed with my mind racing, trying to sleep but failing, so I sat down to write this article. I’m sure one of the 12 people that read this post will probably think, ‘who the hell cares about your family traditions,’ but my intention with this was not to just write down my memories, or give a glimpse into my life; my hope with this piece is to make you stop and think about the little things in life that make up the bigger picture. A simple quilt was transformed into a beautiful time capsule of a piece that includes so many parts of people that I love with my entire heart.
I encourage everyone to start traditions with your family. I don’t just mean holiday traditions, even though they rock. Maybe your family tradition can be getting take-out on friday night, sitting on the couch, and watching a movie together. Or throwing a pizza in the oven one night a month and coming together to play board games.
Every single day is another stitch added to the quilt that is your life. Make your quilt unique and full of love. Remember that stitches can come undone, a seam can pucker no matter how hard you try to flatten it or how many times you redo it, but that is the beauty of a byproduct of you, your life, and your personality; there is beauty in the flaws, but those small parts added together can make for one hell of a showstopping piece.