I didn’t know what to do when Christmas Day first found me alone with my husband. As empty nesters, it wasn’t the least humorous like Hollywood’s Home Alone.

My mother and mother-in law had modeled ideal parents with a houseful of children and grandchildren on Christmas Day. In the succession of generations, I expected to perpetuate into old age their stacks of gifts before the decorated fir, and a table laden with a feast and glowing candles.

How swiftly our parental season passed, driving in holiday blizzards between Mom’s house in Warren to the Underwood’s in Grand Rapids. There, Grandma and Grandpa Underwood awaited their granddaughters’ arrival.

Grandma Rosie loved to lie down on the living room sofa and play possum when we walked into her house. She began the tradition with Becky, our firstborn. Grandma lured our little girl to open the antique coffee grinder filled with Hershey kisses wrapped in red, green, and silver foil. Then Grandma would sit up and say, “What are you gettin’ into?”

Oh, the laughter!

A young mother full of hope and faith, I trusted such love and affection to build spiritual and emotional bonds within our three daughters, and immunity against lies and deception.

Then, in the mid ’70s, my mother shook our world when she moved to Kentucky and built her dream home. She left four daughters and three grandchildren behind, and took our twelve-year-old baby sister with her.

What else could Mel and I do but alternate Christmases between Nana’s in Kentucky and Grandma Rosie’s in Grand Rapids? One Appalachian Christmas, Mom’s grandkids played football in eighty-degree weather.

A brief survey of my family albums reveals the few Christmas dinners my family hosted in our various homes. Mel, our two younger daughters, and I served the most memorable Christmas dinner a few years after Becky’s death in 1996.

The table spread from dining room through living room, Mel and I proclaimed the reconciliation of our marriage derailed by the hardships of our daughter’s substance abuse and burial.

As childbirth is a moment set in time, so was that glorious night serving Chicken in Wine Sauce to my mother, sisters, and their families. Yes, praise God for blessed memory–God’s faithfulness to two grieving parents and siblings.

In our home alone Christmases, Mel and I’ve found solace in what we name our Trip Down Memory Lane. He navigates us by the homes where we raised our children in Metro Detroit.

Charlevoix Street, Clawson. Cherry Hill Apartments, Westland. MacArthur Manor Apartments, Warren. Cummings Street, Berkley. Algonac Street, Detroit.

Sometimes we stray to Lincoln High School where I learned to swim and almost drowned in synchronized swimming productions. Where I first read Shakespeare and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Finally, Mel pulls over before 25708 Wagner Street in Warren where I grew up, where he first met my family.

“Look, your mom’s maple still stands,” he says.

Dear Reader, this is why Jesus came to Earth. To save and comfort the brokenhearted.

Contact Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.