Sharon Randall column for Dec. 13, 2011

The holidays are sometimes like a patchwork quilt. We stitch them together from scraps _ pieces of time and memory, imagination and hope _ to form something new from the old.
That’s especially true after the loss of a loved one, when traditions can feel as empty as the missing place at the table.
The year after my first husband died, my youngest was working in Yosemite National Park and couldn’t come home for the holidays. So his brother and sister and I drove five hours to spend Christmas with him in a hotel room, laughing at a movie called “Something about Mary,” which, despite what I was led to believe, was not about the Holy Mother.
It was different from every Christmas we had known. But it was still Christmas, and best of all, we were still a family.
Since then, we have celebrated 12 Christmases, each different from all the rest. Different has become our tradition.
When I remarried six years ago, my new husband and I set to work on new “quilt,” one we hoped would be large enough to cover both our families.
Blending families is sort of like herding pigeons. It’s not that the pigeons don’t get along. But even birds of a feather can’t always manage to get together.
One of the things I like about my husband (and a reason I decided to marry him) is his obvious love for his family _ for his parents, his two boys, his sister, her husband and their children _ and the closeness that they share.
That closeness became even clearer last winter after we lost his dad to complications of diabetes. We knew this Christmas would be hard on the family, especially on his mom.
So we began comparing notes, gathering scraps, trying to piece together a plan to get people, who live hundreds of miles apart, together in the same place at the same time. Pigeons might have been easier.
But one of the gifts that often follows a loss is a finer appreciation for the importance of family and a growing awareness that any Christmas, any year, any moment to be together, could be our last.
Two weeks before Christmas, my husband and I flew from Las Vegas to Oakland to join his family _ everyone who could possibly make it _ for dinner at one of his mom’s favorite restaurants. (His sister, bless her, made the reservations and put us up at her house.)
Both of my husband’s boys were there. His older son and his girlfriend brought their 3-month old, Charlotte, and we passed her around the table like a box of See’s candy.
I was stealing a bite of my husband’s lemon tart when I looked across the table and saw his mom laughing at Charlotte, her great-granddaughter. I wish you could’ve seen them, some 80 years apart, beaming at each other as if they knew secrets the rest of us would never guess.
I hoped my father-in-law was watching. Nothing could have made him happier.
The evening passed all too quickly, just a few hours together and a lot of goodbye hugs in the parking lot, but it will linger long in memory.
Why are the best memories often the briefest of moments?
My husband and I will spend this Christmas at home in Las Vegas. We’re hoping my oldest can join us for a few days. My youngest and his wife will bring their toddler (the Firecracker) for New Year’s. My daughter and her husband will stay home with their baby (Henry, who’s a day younger than Charlotte) and I’ll go see them in January.
It will be a different sort of Christmas, an ever-changing quilt. But we’ll still be a family, and it will keep us warm.
Here’s wishing the same for you and yours.


  1. Sharon,
    Never took the time to contact you but wanted to tell you I enjoy your column immensely. Your down home approach and your way with words brings out the meaning of home, friends, family and life. Your remind me of another writer I enjoy who in writing describes things or situations to the point the reader can see it, feel it, smell it etc. Thanks for sharing your experiences and life with us.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours,

  2. Rebecca Eidson says

    Sharon, your column really spoke to me especially since I lost my dad this year as well as some other close members of our family. Christmas shouldn’t be confined to December 25 but should be shared any day of the year that family is together. Thanks for a wonderful column that always seems to hit a chord with me. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  3. Carol in Indiana says

    You have done it again. Once more you have brought a little bit of “home” to me. I wonder how many of your readers are familiar with See’s Candy. This is the best candy I have ever tasted. Having been born; and having spent the majority of my life in Southern California, a See’s Candy store was always within 10 miles of my home. As a child, to see the familiar black and white tile floors gave me such a sense of something really tasty was about to come my way. Now living in the mid-west, there is not a store within 100 miles of me. I have to order on-line and wait for the familiar black and white box to arrive in the mail. Thanks again, for sharing your life with us.

  4. Thanks, Sharon, for another marvelous column.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. May the family quilt keep you warm no matter where you all are.



    • Sharon Randall says

      Thank you, Bruce. I know this Christmas will be especially meaningful for you and your family. Here’s wishing you grace and peace and joy!

  5. Love this column Auntie Sharon. Wish I could have been there. Merry Christmas!

    • Sharon Randall says

      We wish you could’ve been there, too, Whit, but in a real sense you were. We felt you!
      Much love,
      Your Auntie Sharon

  6. vicki hamrick says

    Now that’s a great Christmas story, and exemplifies the true meaning of Christmas. Merry Christmas Sharon, to you and your extended family. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season which lasts through 2012!

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