Remembering the Ghost of Christmas Past

I am a loyal reader of Petite Anglaise, and her December 13 post has been resonating with me for days now. Petite is separated from the father of her young child, and in this entry, she admits struggling to make Christmas special for Tadpole, as she calls her daughter.

If you’ve read my 100 things about me, you know that my parents were divorced when I was very young. And so, I’ve been in the shoes of Tadpole–having adults around me trying to make everything seem normal when, it turns out, I suppose it wasn’t (whatever “normal” means).

So the more I’ve thought about Petite and Tadpole, the more I’ve been thinking about my own childhood Christmases–and the more I’ve felt the need to write this post.

By Christmases (plural), I mean that we had two every year. If today were 20 years ago, this might have been the morning that I woke up at my Mom’s house, opened gifts, and then prepared for our Christmas dinner, which usually included my father and his family.

That’s because one or two weeks before the big day, we had “Mom’s Christmas,” a full celebration only a little early. More than the early gifts, though, the highlight for me was the unveiling of Mom’s cookies–chocolate chips, Michigan rocks, ricotta, kolaches, butter pressed, pizzelles. Of course, some time in the weeks before, we had decorated the cut-outs, which involved a couple of my girlfriends and a slumber party.*

Man I’m missing home (and childhood) right about now.

Anyway, some of the reason behind having two Christmases was that my mom is a nurse and always worked Christmas day; on actual Christmas morning, she usually came over to my father’s house for a little while.

But I’m sure the bigger reason was that with two full holidays, nobody missed out on a family Christmas experience. In fact, as kids, we were blessed to have to double the fun.

And the best part was that all of this seemed completely normal to me even though I knew the other kids at school weren’t having the same deal (suckers!). Now, as an adult, I see that this was the plan. And it worked.

Don’t buy it? My testimonial not enough?

Take Exhibit A, then, depicting what the two Christmas set-up made my normally curmudgeonly grandfather (may he rest in peace) do to himself one year:

See, Christmas miracles do happen.

*These are not the actual recipes my Mom uses. As you can surely understand, these are top secret and under heavy guard (in my Mom’s head). I did, however, try to find some that are close to hers.

9 Beans of Wisdom to “Remembering the Ghost of Christmas Past”
  1. Michellanea

    As a latchkey kid and child of (multiple) divorce from the Midwest, I know exactly where you are coming from. As the oldest child, I was not at all shielded, however, and I actually don’t have many cheery holiday memories (not to be melodramatic – it was character building!). I’m trying to make my own now that I’m adult…

  2. Rabes

    Hi. I really like your blog… I’ll be visiting often, I’m sure.

  3. Gil

    Reminds me of a classmate my son had from grade school. They were born on the same day and in the same hospital and were in scouts together. Seth was Jewish and for years he called Gilbert to tell him about the gifts he was receiving – every day for the 8 days of Hanukkah!!! It made for some trying times then, but is funny now.

  4. Shan

    While my parents did separate when I was a kid, my Dad unfortunately passed away before Christmas that year. So my brother and I missed out on all that, but I did marry into that exact situation. Mike’s parents had separated and both remarried. Christmas wasn’t so much of an issue before we had kids, but once Miss Abby arrived on the scene well it was a whole different ball game. It’s been a real balancing act trying to be fair and to make everyone happy. This year we’ve decided what would make us happy and we’re going from there. So far it’s been working out better than any other year. We should have thought about this 4 years ago.

  5. sognatrice

    Welcome to Rabes and Gil 🙂

    Michelle and Shan, I had a feeling there were a lot of us out there with less than run-of-the-mill upbringings. The reason I wanted to write this post (which now that I’ve reread, actually got deleted somehow before I posted! Love Blogger!) was to encourage everyone to search for balance and what works for them around the holidays. I’m sure both of you will make very special memories for yourselves, and Shan, for your daughters too.

    Hey, I’m getting all Christmas-spirity all of a sudden. Wow!

  6. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    what a beautiful post.

  7. Tina

    Okay, LOVE the picture of your granpda! Thank you for sending me the link!!!


  8. JT

    It was great to see “Big Bernie” after all of these years! He was always nice to me…but he wasn’t interested in winning you over…and didn’t take any crap from those dishing it out! So, I made sure to leave my crap at home when I came to visit! 🙂


  9. JT

    And by “winning you over,” I am referring to people, in general…not you, Michelle! You won him…and everyone in the room over BIGTIME…and as long as you were nearby, he was a happy camper! Big Bernie was certainly intimidating, but he became a big softy when he had you in his arms! 🙂 JT

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake