Christmas is such a time of anticipation of tradition. My Dad used to smoke a turkey on Christmas Eve and Mom served it with wild rice instead of stuffing. We went to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Day for turkey again. That’s most likely why Jim Brawner and I had corned beef and cabbage for our traditional Christmas dinner.

But as our kids left one by one, work schedules interfered, and in-law families had to be considered, things began to shift again. One year we went to Oklahoma because Travis was on call over Christmas. A man got drunk, climbed a tree and fell out. Travis missed Christmas dinner because he was at the hospital trying to put the guy back together. One year we didn’t exchange gifts, but chose a family to help. And when babies began to arrive, adjustments had to be made one more time.

The Brawner party of 15 had our Christmas on the 23rd again this year at Kari and Travis’ house. It seems to work. We had baked spaghetti and more fun than we deserved. I’ve learned to hold on to tradition lightly because things change, but the one thing I really push for is a picture with the grandkids. I think I realized a tad too late in the evening we hadn’t taken one yet.

The older four kids have learned to pose, sometimes with plastic grins. Jameson, Owen and Jackson endured. Mollie Jane stood up just as the picture was taken so the top of her head was cropped. Smith just wanted down to play with the new monster trucks. Vivian looks like she was thinking, “Are you kidding me” and Kaylin had just had enough of it. But, I got my picture.

I woke up this Christmas morning extremely blessed and grateful. However, it’s my first Christmas without my dad and I miss him intensely. I’ll spend the day living one of the most important things he ever taught me … enjoy it. That’s one tradition I’ll never let go of.

Merry Christmas!

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