For the Blessing of Coming Home for the Holidays

Christmas Homecoming by Norman Rockwell

Many of our favorite Christmas carols are all about coming home for the holidays, reliving family traditions, and reinvigorating the rituals that tie together generations over the years.

I’ll be home for Christmas,  you can count on me, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, here we are as in olden days,  there’s no place like home for the holidays, all I really want for Christmas is a family…

It may be as simple as a certain jello recipe that always shows up at the Christmas dinner table, or a movie that is a particular favorite for everyone to watch together, or a story book that is read before bedtime.  The predictability is the glue that holds a family together, connecting everyone even when separated over months and miles.  It is reassuring and for children, it becomes as readily anticipated (and expected) as the gift giving.

For our family, it is 25 years of a particular egg, bacon, cheese, milk and bread breakfast casserole that is put together on Christmas Eve and then baked early on Christmas day.  It is a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service singing “Silent Night”.  It is watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” together,  and it is singing grace in harmony at the dinner table.   It’s word games and truly bad puns.  I can go on and on.  It is about shared history, identity, and values.

I know there are plenty of families where what is predictable is argument, abuse and unhappiness.   Too often it is fueled by alcohol, or numbed by marijuana smoke.  With the trend toward cohabiting and single parenthood,  a majority of children grow up in homes with so much transition because of changing dynamics and household members, there is less glue to hold those families together.   Some families do survive despite the fractures.  I see this uncertainty in many of the college students I work with who do not have a clear cut “home” to return to during their winter break and must divide time visiting several “homes”.

I am grateful our children still can choose to come home for the holidays.  I am thankful we maintain connections that make our home a place they want to come to.  I’m glad we still have the glue that keeps us together through the years.

I’m sure my children would tell me that as long as I don’t forget the Christmas breakfast casserole recipe, they’ll keep coming home.  Just in case, here it is so I can look it up when I’m too old to simply throw it together any longer:

Christmas Morning Casserole
put together Christmas eve and baked Christmas morning)


One loaf of french bread–cut into cubes and place in greased 10×12″ rectangular baking dish

In a large bowl combine:
12 eggs

4 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

dash black pepper

Pour egg/milk mixture over bread cubes

On top of the bread/egg/milk place:
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 lb. fried bacon, crumbled

sprinkle with dried parsley

(other ingredients to consider: we sometimes cut up varied colors of fresh sweet peppers to put on top, or you can substitute sausage for the bacon, or go totally meatless)

Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 325 degrees for at least two hours (time may vary a bit), making sure the center is done. Serves 10-12

For The Decades to Slow Way Down

Point No Point 2000

Point No Point 2010

Ten years could not possibly have flown by this quickly.  Our three children no longer “fit” in a little cave on our favorite west Vancouver Island beach, but we still can spend a few days together appreciating each others’ company as five adults.   The games around the table in the beach cabin are a bit more competitive, the conversation quite a bit deeper, the meals prepared by expert 21 year old hands, and much of the time everyone has their nose in a book.  When we all climb in the hot tub together, we displace a lot more water now.  However, the three still work to build a sand castle with moat in order to watch the incoming tide collapse it with a few swiping crashing waves.

Another ten years will inevitably bring more changes but there is much about our family that will remain the same even as we spend more and more time miles apart.  I rest in that knowledge.  I’m simply asking for the passage of time to take its time.

Point No Point 2010

For The Dish Washed Clean

I trace the faltering American family to the invention of the automatic dishwasher.  What ever has happened to the human dishwasher with two hands full of wash cloth and scrubber, alongside a dish dryer armed with a towel?  Where is the list on the refrigerator of whose turn is next, and the accountability if a family member somehow shirks their washing/drying responsibility?

No longer do family members have to cooperate to scrub clean glasses, dishes and utensils, put them in the dish rack, dry them one by one and place them in the cupboard where they belong.  If the washer isn’t doing a proper job, the dryer immediately takes note and recycles the dirty dish right back to the sink.  Instant accountability. I always preferred to be the dryer.  If I washed, and my sister dried,  we’d never get done.  She would keep recycling the dishes back for another going-over.  My messy nature exposed.

The family conversations started over a meal often continue over the clean up process  when concentrating on whether a smudge is permanent or not.   I learned some important facts of life while washing and drying dishes that I might not have learned otherwise.  Sensitive topics tend to be easier to discuss when elbow deep in soap suds.  Spelling and vocabulary drills are more effective when the penalty for a missed word is a snap on the butt with a dish towel.

Modern society is missing the best opportunity for three times a day family together time.  Forget family “game” night, or parental “date” night, or even vacations.  Dish washing and drying at the sink takes care of all those times when families need to be communicating and cooperating.

It is time to treat the automatic dishwasher as simply another storage cupboard and instead pull out the brillo pads, the white cotton dishtowels and the plastic dishrack.  Let’s start tonight.

I think it is your turn first…