Twenty-two of us piled into planes and cars to travel home for Christmas and keep a promise we made to each other 28 years ago.
Home this year was Reno, NV, but the location changes every year. Christmas was December 10, but the date changes every year. What doesn’t change is the tremendous effort everyone makes to be there. And, as my reflection in the plane window screamed, “We’ve been at this for a LOT of years”!
Just getting there offers travel tales from the hilarious to the miraculous. Like the time my now-brother-in-law boarded a flight to Reno to meet the whole family at our Christmas gathering. After hearing so much about him, I eagerly awaited his arrival. My sister tracked his flight… delayed… enroute… arriving soon… too much snow…. flight returned to the bay area. “Come on”, I thought, “does this guy really exist”?
Or the time my sports-loving brother-in-law decided to hoof it to the airport and scope out a bicycle route to work along the way. It seemed a noble notion. But, after hiking several miles in the morning darkness through unfamiliar residential neighborhoods, he found himself lost. A sinking feeling took hold — he could call someone but no one would get to him in time. Besides, he didn’t know where he was anyway! Just then, a taxi with its service light turned off, rounded a corner and rescued him!
West and east coast snowstorms, red-eye flights, and travel woes plagued family members over the years but to no avail. Promises are meant to be kept.
Twenty-eight years ago, my mother, Alice, took her place in heaven. She was the heart of our family. Her love, humor, forgiving nature, and passion for family gatherings and traditions made her home the go-to place. We knew a visit to Mom’s house meant we would see each other. Mom to seven, Mom-in-law to four, and Babcia (Grandmother) to three, she kept us connected.
And so, that first Christmas without her, we promised to set a date each year, rotate locations among us and gather together for “Family Christmas”. It comforted us knowing that no matter where life took us, we would touch home every year. I didn’t fully comprehend the meaning nor depth of this simple agreement at the time. Or maybe, it just grew over the years as many of us moved away, or as we retold this Christmas story to new nieces, nephews and in-laws crazy enough to embrace this lively family and its Polish traditions! This year, our family grew by one more. Mom’s third great-grandchild, Dylan Jay, arrived in November joining sister, Ava, and cousin, Rosalie, in the tyke generation. As we grow, it gets more difficult to get together, but we do the best we can. Mostly, we gather at full count (30-plus!) and dearly miss those who can’t make it.
Twenty-two of us piled into planes and cars in Reno, NV, richer from time spent together, to return home before Christmas Eve and complete the promise we made to each other 28 years ago — to share Christmas with the “other side” of our families, celebrate our individual family traditions and make room for younger families to create their own memorable traditions. Greg and I enjoyed Christmas with his family, as we have for many years, feeling grateful, connected and ready for the New Year.