Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present

I was chatting with someone just a few days ago. I asked them what their plans were for Christmas and they asked me mine. times have changed.

When I was little, my grandparents were the center of the universe and wherever they were - that's where Christmas was.

Initially, Christmas was at the apartment building - 808 Clay Street.

(Pictured: Wayne E. Roy, Irene Roy, Kristina Frazier, Frank Frazier, Patricia S. Frazier - Christmas 1967)

Everyone - my Aunts (Carolyn and Barb), their husbands (Jim and Bob), and my parents, plus me, my sister, and eventually my two cousins - Wendy and Cindy...we all gathered here and celebrated Christmas.

Church was a priority. My great-grandmother (Helena Starost Roy Kline) was a devout catholic and my Grandpa and his three daughters were obedient attenders of catholic mass - especially on Christmas. Cathedral was just a hop, skip and a jump away - which was good because we could walk there and back from the apartment building.

As you can see from this picture, my grandpa is dressed up. This was his "Sunday suit" - or at least that is what I called it. He wasn't one to wear fancy things - but you could count on the suit coming out for Christmas, Easter, weddings, funerals, and baptisms :).

My grandma wasn't much of a church goer. She would stay behind - busying herself in the kitchen. You could always count on pleasant smells (and sometimes unusual as my grandma was known to stray from the typical Christmas feast).

My grandparents moved to Jackson, Michigan sometime in the early 70's.

Even though my family (and Aunt Carolyn's) was in Fort Wayne and Aunt Barb's was in Elkhart - it was never doubted that we would all travel up to Jackson, Michigan and celebrate Christmas together as a family.

(Pictured: Kristina Frazier, Patricia J. Frazier, Cindy Baughman, Wendy Welker - Christmas 1975)

We would usually drive up the day / night before so that my mom and aunt's could help my grandma with all of the cooking.

Grandpa liked to sit in his big, overstuffed brown recliner chair, watching his black and white television, smoking his cigar.

The four cousins - well - we had an absolute blast! I have to tell you that only having one sibling at the time (my sister) was boring and frustrating. Getting to hang with Cindy and Wendy was awesome because it was fresh blood to pick on! Normally though, we'd play board games, dress- up, go out side and sled, etc....There was never a time where we sat around and asked to go home. Being at grandma and grandpa's house was always awesome.

This is where I distinctly remember the grown-ups and kids table. The grown-ups sat around the dining room table and the four girls - well - we got our own table. It was a 4 x 4 card table with folding chairs to boot.

(Pictured: Patricia S. Frazier, Frank Frazier - Christmas dining room table, 1975)

Some other traditions that stand out for me - my grandma allowing us to pick one ornament from the tree to take home and my grandpa getting on the floor and handing out the gifts, one by one. As a kid whose family struggled to make ends meet, Christmas was the motherload from a gift perspective. The night before we opened gifts - none of us girls could hardly sleep.

In the late 70's, my grandparents moved back to Fort Wayne and they lived in the Sheridan Court Apartments on Union Street.

(Pictured: Kristina Frazier, Frank Frazier, Patricia S. Frazier, Patricia J. Frazier, Jason Frazier - Christmas 1978)

This was the very last Christmas that we would spend together as a family unit - that is - me, my siblings, and my parents. My parents split up a month after this and everything in our lives changed.

Despite my parents divorce (and my two aunt's all divorcing and re-marrying), my grandparents had this unspoken thing about keeping the Christmas tradition alive.

In the early eighties, they moved to a house on Third Street. And even though I was in high school and my sister, and cousins were also moving up into "that age", the Christmas tradition was not to be messed with.

The main difference about the house on Third Street is that instead of just visiting it, I also lived there for a period of time. It didn't ruin my excitement about seeing everyone and by this time, I was starting to like some of my grandma's weird food selections :).

(Pictured: Kristina Frazier, Cindy Wilkins, Wendy Welker, Patty Frazier - Christmas 1985)

This picture here - is extremely precious to me. It's the very last photo of me, my sister, and my two cousins...taken with my grandfather. Five months later, he would become very ill and less than a year after that, he died.

Christmas has not been the same since.

My grandma lost the spring in her step and eventually, we all drifted away.

There have been a couple times that an effort has been made for all of us to get together.

(Pictured: Cyndi Wilkins, Kristina Frazier - Christmas, 1994?)

But most of the time, it doesn't happen. Some of it had to do with the strain in the relationships between sisters (my mom and two aunts) and sometimes it was just a question of other obligations and/or distance that some lived away from Fort Wayne.

To be quite honest, there have been several times - holiday or not holiday - where I have chosen not to take part in a family get together because of my own anxiety. Since the death of my grandfather and the multiple changes that my cousins have gone through - I just don't know how to "be" around them. For years, my sister, Cindy, and Wendy - we were glue for each other...Through the second round of siblings (ugh - all boys!), to the divorce of our parents (and their subsequent remarriages). The multiple moves, the multiple dysfunctions of the family (i.e. drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, sexual abuse, depression...). The boyfriends, the jobs, the cars, the booze...

Now, it is as if we don't even know each other.

So you remember, at the beginning of this entry, I said that I was chatting with someone about what our plans were for the Christmas holiday...

After I told this person what I was doing, all of these memories came flooding back to me (in about a span of four seconds). I remember writing to her, "it's bizarre how relationships change over time". That was my way to acknowledge that my Christmas has a definite hole in it. The absence of my grandfather, the silent treatment from my father, and the evaporated relationships that used to be - Me, Patty, Cindy, Wendy.


Association President said...

Wow Kristina!! I could feel your sorrow and pain in this post! I have similar thoughts and feelings surrounding the holidays of my youth as well. My grandparents THE reason holidays were celebrated.
I drive by your dads house about once a week, and have seen him out a couple of times. I I have always waved, and he acknowledged with a nod - at first. now he waves back.
I talk with a neighbor of his at our neighborhood association meetings and ask about him. He still works, and keeps busy.
My new years wish for you is - To make the bold moves to at least stop and see your estranged family. I will be doing the same with my family and friends.