We’re gearing up to feed a couple of hundred people at our house in a few weeks and I’m excited, exhausted, and almost done with decorating for Christmas. A lot can go into planning your own ‘funeral.’
Let me explain…
Almost every year for the past 15 years we’ve had a big family breakfast whereby we invite friends and family from near and far that have impacted our life somehow over the last year. It’s exciting, exhausting, and one of the highlights of my year.
We got the crazy, let’s-add-one-more-thing-to-the-calendar idea from a dear friend who grew up going to such an occasion in her childhood neighborhood. As she tells it, year after year, for whoever was in town that year, it was simply a given that the Maddoxes, three doors down, would serve up waffles and juice and bacon to the neighborhood on Christmas morning.
The result? It became one of the most anticipated events of the year for her family and everyone else in the neighborhood because, no matter how busy everyone was, no matter if the kids went 1,000 miles away to school, or no matter who got married, had kids, and was only home to visit their folks for three days, everyone showed up at the Maddox’s for Christmas morning breakfast to reconnect and catch up.
Friends who shared your childhood were there.
Neighbors who helped raise you were there.
Maybe even your first crush was there.
There was something about the continuity, the year-after-year-ed-ness, of this celebration that struck a chord in me. I loved the intense sense of connection and the shared histories of so many all coming together in one place, at one time. And so, now we’ve established the tradition with our friends and family.
And for 15 years, it’s been a joyous, sometimes crazy, always exhausting, adventure. And I look forward to it every year.
In the beginning, I wasn’t brave (or crazy) enough to do the whole Christmas morning celebration because so many of my friends travelled away for the actual holiday and, let’s be honest, I’m a planner—to a fault. And so, we did the next best thing—we picked a December Saturday, usually right around the time when school was out, college kids were home, and moms were in the home stretch of their holiday shopping.
We started out reasonably small. Really. Even intimate.
But then, as the kids grew, so did their activities and their circle of friends which meant ours did as well. One year, in addition to the usual core group, we invited the whole soccer team, their families, and coaches. The next year it was the basketball team. And the cheerleading squad. And special teachers, youth group friends, and work friends.
One thing led to another and another and before long, the whole if-you-invite-the-Johnsons-you-gotta-invite-the-Smiths ‘thing,’ kicked in. But it was a glorious challenge to face—too many people we knew, loved, and wanted to invite in for a meal. I mean, really, what’s another couple of pounds of bacon at this point?
It was only a few years after we started this love-ya-like family tradition that I came to find out that our little Saturday morning get-together really did seem to matter to at least a few people. It wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet and I started getting messages on Facebook. And texts and emails. And phone calls asking about the date so people could plan family trips and other activities around it.
Are you kidding me? You’re putting bacon before in-laws?
(No comment…absolutely, no comment.)
Anyhow, suffice it to say, our numbers increased. As did the egg casseroles we made, the bacon we fried, and the batches of Double D’s famous sweet rolls we cranked out.
It was a gloriously, glorious example of ‘the more the merrier.’
High school kids who had gone to the far corners of the country for college reconnected. Friends who had moved away caught up on all the comings and goings of friends who remained here. And families who had raised their children together were now welcoming a new generation of kids to the table and trading family pics and here’s-what’s-going-on-with-us updates.
It was also just a few years in to this crazy mix of warm hugs and hot chocolate that I had the most wonderful realization: The Christmas breakfast was kind of like my funeral–except that I was around to enjoy it.
Don’t go all morbid on me…stay with me here.
We were in full-swing party mode with a zillion different conversations going on, the front door was more open than closed, and every corner of the house was literally abuzz with people we loved. And then some friends walked in and mentioned they had to park on the next street over because there wasn’t a single spot remaining on our street. And so I stepped outside and, I kid you not—it was one of the most wonderful moments: it was the most perfect of wintry days—clear, crisp, and piles of crunchy leaves everywhere; the street was truly almost impassable with cars parked alongside both sides as far as I could see in either direction; and friends were flocking towards the house from both ends of the street, smiling and waving, as their kids ran ahead towards the front walk.
That’s when I realized that most of the people that meant the most to us were there with us. They had made it a priority to hit the ‘pause’ button of everyday life to reconnect with each other and celebrate life—just like at a funeral.
There was food.
Family had gathered.
Friends filled the house.
And there was laughter. Lots of laughter.
See what I mean? It was like my funeral except that I had the extraordinary good fortune to enjoy it.
And so, every year, sometime between icing the sweet rolls, refilling the juice pitchers, and hugging friends old and new, I step outside on my front porch just to take it all in—and see the cars that line the street that represent the friends and family that fill our hearts.
My daughter calls it ‘my moment,’ as in, “Mom, I’ll take care of this batch, go have ‘your moment.’ ”
And so I do.
Got me another ‘moment’ coming soon; grateful to be alive to enjoy it.
I can hardly wait.
Am I the only one who sees these celebrations of what matters most to us akin to a wonderful life well-lived?