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Sharon Randall: Making Christmas memories

By Sharon Randall
Scripps Howard News Service
The holidays are sometimes like a patchwork quilt. We stitch them together from scraps ó pieces of time and memory, imagination and hope ó to form something new from the old.
Thatís especially true after the loss of a loved one, when traditions can feel as empty as the missing place at the table.
The year after my first husband died, my youngest was working in Yosemite National Park and couldnít come home for the holidays. So his brother and sister and I drove five hours to spend Christmas with him in a hotel room, laughing at a movie called ěSomething about Mary,î which, despite what I was led to believe, was not about the Holy Mother.
It was different from every Christmas we had known. But it was still Christmas, and best of all, we were still a family. Since then, we have celebrated 12 Christmases, each different from all the rest. Different has become our tradition.
When I remarried six years ago, my new husband and I set to work on a new ěquilt,î one we hoped would be large enough to cover both our families. Blending families is sort of like herding pigeons. Itís not that the pigeons donít get along. But even birds of a feather canít always manage to get together.
One of the things I like about my husband (and a reason I decided to marry him) is his obvious love for his family ó for his parents, his two boys, his sister, her husband and their children ó and the closeness that they share.
That closeness became even clearer last winter after we lost his dad to complications of diabetes. We knew this Christmas would be hard on the family, especially on his mom. So we began comparing notes, gathering scraps, trying to piece together a plan to get people who live hundreds of miles apart together in the same place at the same time. Pigeons might have been easier.
But one of the gifts that often follow a loss is a finer appreciation for the importance of family and a growing awareness that any Christmas, any year, any moment to be together, could be our last.
Two weeks before Christmas, my husband and I flew from Las Vegas to Oakland, Calif., to join his family ó everyone who could possibly make it ó for dinner at one of his momís favorite restaurants. (His sister, bless her, made the reservations and put us up at her house.)
Both of my husband’s boys were there. His older son and his girlfriend brought their 3-month-old, Charlotte, and we passed her around the table like a box of Seeís candy.
I was stealing a bite of my husbandís lemon tart when I looked across the table and saw his mom laughing at Charlotte, her great-granddaughter. I wish you couldíve seen them, some 80 years apart, beaming at each other as if they knew secrets the rest of us would never guess. I hoped my father-in-law was watching. Nothing could have made him happier.
The evening passed all too quickly, just a few hours together and a lot of goodbye hugs in the parking lot, but it will linger long in memory.
Why are the best memories often the briefest of moments?
My husband and I will spend this Christmas at home in Las Vegas. Weíre hoping my oldest can join us for a few days. My youngest and his wife will bring their toddler (the Firecracker) for New Yearís. My daughter and her husband will stay home with their baby (Henry, whoís a day younger than Charlotte) and Iíll go see them in January.
It will be a different sort of Christmas, an ever-changing quilt. But weíll still be a family, and it will keep us warm. Hereís wishing the same for you and yours.

Contact Sharon Randall at www.sharonrandall.com.

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