Christmas changed at the Palmer house in University Place that year. Mom was booked for a flight to Germany on the 18th of December, Oma was sick. Jason, my brother, didn’t have enough military leave accrued to come home from Arizona for the Christmas holidays, having recently gotten married. His new wife, Amy, hadn’t enough time at her new job to get many vacation days, either. I lived in nearby Lacey Washington with my husband, Ron and two daughters, Alexis and Aundrea.
Traditionally on Christmas Eve we all attended the Children’s Mass on Ft. Lewis and looked at lights afterward on the way to Mom and Dad’s house. Mom always fixed Bratwursts with brötchen, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. After dinner drinks for the men and dishes chores for the women led up to our gathering in the family room around the Christmas tree. The girls would position brown paper grocery sacks for ripped open wrappings. Mom would always give out the presents. We all watched as each gift was opened, “oohed and aahed” over, then set aside for the next one leading up to the grand finale. Mom and Dad always had a special gift that needed to be opened last. This was the way our Christmas always was until that year.
Like I said, Mom was leaving on the 18th of December, on a Wednesday. After making arrangements with Jason, Dad announced we’d be still have our traditional Christmas Eve celebration with the entire family, on Friday the 13th of December.
Jason and Amy flew in that Friday evening in time to attend 5 o’clock mass with the rest of the night celebrated as always, our family together.
Scores of Christmases are now gone by. My children have children and our traditional Christmas is nowadays at the Temple house in Lacey. We’ve had to alter our Christmases many times through the years to get the family all together and always worked out, in many cases, for the better.
Church services on Christmas Day I never attended, we’d always gone the night before, I now have time for. I find fulfillment, which I share with my daughters, serving Christmas dinner to the less fortunate at the mission downtown each year. Handing out gifts at the orphanage and singing along with the smiling faces at the assisted living facility for the elderly became and remains part of my holiday spirit and joy.
Additional benefit in delaying Christmas for many families is the After-Christmas sales. Lots more can be afforded, especially by volunteering to work for holiday pay. Those having to travel are able to steer clear of the massive jams by coming instead of going.
Christmas changed at the Palmer house that year when Dad shifted it to the 13th. Now shifting Christmas has become part of our tradition, if that’s what it takes, to have our Christmas with family, together.
“Merry Christmas to you and your family, together.”
Carl “Papa” Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, Virginia, lives in University Place, Washington. He is retired from the military and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enjoying life as “Papa” to his grand descendants and being a Franciscan Hospice volunteer. PAPA’s MOTTO: Long Weekends Forever!