When we were little, my parents took us to Texas every year to celebrate Christmas. My Mom's family lived in Texas and we would spend two weeks with my grandparents on a ranch in Brackettville, Texas. This ranch was the "headquarters" for the entire Jones Family. There were six houses on the ranch, five of which were occupied. Four sisters and one brother all lived on this ranch with their families. My mom never lived on the ranch but her parents moved there after she grew up. This was my grandmother, Oma's, home place. Every year my parents would pack our massive Econoline van with four kids, six (or more like sixteen!) suitcases, billions of Christmas presents and of course mom's fried chicken that we ate on our two-day drive to heaven! Instead of going to the beach or snow skiing, we went to Texas and to us, there was no other place we wanted to be!
I never thought about it when I was little but now that I am older I realize that my Dad was so generous to my Mom for letting us go to Texas every year for Christmas. He never complained or fussed about not being able to spend the holidays at our home in Georgia with our Georgia family. He told me one time that he figured that we got to spend every day and every other holiday with his family in Georgia, so it was only fair that we have Christmas with our Texas family.
Every year my Great Aunt Bonnie would gather the whole ranch at her home for the big family Christmas party. It was at one of these parties where I first remember actually meeting Suzanne Steece, who most of my readers know from her quad blog. We would gather in her living room and sing Christmas carols as my Aunt Bonnie played the piano... she had the most beautiful voice. We would also celebrate Suzanne's grandmother's birthday. All other evenings at the ranch were spent in someones living room, usually my grandmother or my Great Aunt Sybill's. All of the adults gathered and talked for hours upon end. Us children would either be playing spotlight or creating some sort of skit or "play" for all of the adults to watch at the end of the night.
During the day we would shoot bb guns and ride mopeds... and at night my uncle Boot would usually organize a massive game of spotlight. On Christmas Eve we would gather at my great grandmother's home (the unoccupied house) and we would have Christmas Eve dinner. I remember playing Chinese Christmas and I remember always hearing "Santa's bells" ringing outside which was just a way to excite us kids and make us want to go to bed. Every Christmas Eve my cousin Shara and I would plot how we were going to catch Santa in the act. We always fell asleep before our plan fell through!
Christmas morning was the best! I spent every Christmas morning as a child at Oma and Opa's with my cousins and their families. My grandparents would make coffee for the adults and I think they also made breakfast but I was always to excited to think about eating. A large wooden curtain would close off the kitchen from living room. The adults would always take forever getting all the cameras ready and everything perfect before the curtain would open. The room would be transformed and their would be presents all the way from one side of the room where my grandmother's tree was to the stairs that we trampled down. All of our Santa presents were layed out for all to see! Everyone had their spot they sat in every year to open presents and I always sat next to my Shara. The next couple of hours were spent with paper flying everywhere and everyone screaming and laughing and so excited. You could always hear my brother over everyone, "Daddy, look!" (As if my dad didn't know what Santa brought us!) He always sat on the couch. My sister Tiffany and cousin Kitten would always pass out the presents (and they were very avid that this was THEIR JOB!) and we would spend hours laughing and opening... and then eventually playing with everything we bought. There were so many of us, it was so loud and obnoxious but so much fun. My mom and dad, and my grandmother would sit next to a huge stack of their presents that were still unopened, and watch all of us kids and our excitement. I always remember my grandmother being the last one still opening a huge stack of presents. I thought every family spent Christmas this way, with their extended family. It wasn't until I was in high school that I ever remember having a Christmas at home with just my immediate family.
I loved Christmas in Texas more than anything the world. As I try to put into words what it was like, I really don't feel like I can paint near as beautiful of a picture as it actually was in real life. It has been a long time since my grandmother passed away but I can close my eyes and see her and remember these amazing mornings spent with her and my grandfather. Every year I can't help but think about my cousins and wish they were opening presents right next to me. I want this kind of Christmas for Brooks and Max. It was so exciting and so meaningful. Through all the presents, parties, gatherings and excitement we always remembered the real meaning of Christmas and that is why we were able to gather together every year... to celebrate Jesus' birth. And a celebration it most definitely was! So, when I heard this Third Day song called "Christmas Like A Child" I could not help but think about Texas.
I want to feel Christmas, how it used to be
With all of its wonder falling on me
This season has felt so empty, oh for quite a while