Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Joys #14 - Blended Families, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," and Christmas Lights

Christmas memories often come in the form of traditions such as "Our family always attended Christmas services on Christmas Eve" or "My mother and I baked and iced cookies the week before" which are usually based and recounted in a childhood setting.

We realize, of course, that not all Christmas memories are good ones, and (paraphrasing what I recently read in the wonderful novel The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass) at every family event, at least one or two dramas are going on in the background and family alliances form and reform like clouds in the sky.

Those of us who have "blended" families know how difficult it can be to forge new holiday traditions. Our family, in the 1980's, wasn't exactly the Brady Bunch  Our six children included four teenagers/young adults and two little girls who had seen their parents separate and divorce.  We were dealing with disappointments, broken dreams, and failed expectations and were struggling to create a semblance of harmony and hope during the holiday season.  But we were "feeling our way", because we didn't have any standard or set of instructions, except our own memories of our childhood family or a recently broken one, neither of which still existed.

What helped break the ice for us was a song, but it wasn't a Christmas Carol or even a popular holiday "sing-along" tune.  It was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

We decided to load all of the kids into the oversized gas-guzzling van we owned and drive to Sky Island in Oklahoma City to see the Christmas lights.  Sky Island was a neighborhood that attracted visitors from all over Central Oklahoma to their beautifully decorated light displays.  It was a "destination" for families and I remember that it was certainly something to see, but as they say," the trip was more important than the destination".

We sang on the way.  We sang with the radio.  We sang without the radio.  For some reason, we sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."  As you may remember, there are high voices and there are low voices; there is chanting and howling and yodelling in the popular recording, and although our rendition wasn't technically perfect, it provided an outlet for six children (and two adults) during the holiday drive, a time for silliness and fun.  And for that few moments, for the first time, we were a family.

We were (and  25 years later, continue to be) a family.  We're not perfect (but what family is?) and our Christmas memories are a mix of good and not-so-good, serious and funny, picture-perfect and downright embarrassing, attentive and attention-seeking, giving and "give-me" moments, that make Christmas (and our lives) human and not Hollywood (or Hallmark) manufactured.   And for that I'm grateful.

I'm thankful, too, for my special Christmas memory of the Christmas lights and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".  My special wish for all "blended families" during this holiday season -- enjoy each other and love each other and, if you have a drama, a disagreement, or just a lapse in the conversation, try singing a few bars of "In the jungle, the mighty jungle.. . "

Annie

3 comments:

Thisisme said...

Hi Annie. I have come to your Blog via the Lady Bloggers Society and really enjoyed reading your story about your Christmas memories. So much so, that I have decided to follow you. Hope that's okay! Best wishes.

collettakay said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I've enjoyed visiting yours.

My family likes to sing the Lion Sleeps Tonight too! You should hear my 3 year old. She is too funny!

Isn't LBS great?

BECKY said...

Annie, I loved this! I, too, have a blended family, AND I mention the Brady Bunch a lot when talking about it! My quote is: "Real life AIN'T like the Brady Bunch!"
(I always feel I have to apologize for using the word "ain't", but it seems to make it all the better!)

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