For the past couple of years, I’ve spent Christmas Eve with my mother traveling back to her hometown and revisiting the graves and the memories of family who are no longer with us.

Our Christmas celebrations in the past were crowded with family and newborn children all gathered around a buffet table roaring with Christmas stories. The night ended with carols until we couldn’t stay awake any longer.

That was several years ago.

Since then, the family has changed. My brother has relocated to Tampa and together they’ve blossomed into a new family of more than eleven and it’s hard for them to think about traveling back to East Tennessee each year.

My father has moved on and spends his time with friends. Likewise, most of my friends have their own gatherings too. So each year, Mom and I meet up for lunch somewhere nice and visit the graves on Christmas Eve.

Sounds odd I know, but it’s all good. In fact, the silence and reflection of Christmas past is probably best memorialized like this rather than sitting around a living room looking at pictures.

With fresh arrangements, we visit my mother’s first born, Debra Kay and Grandparents Harold and Ruth Cate in Strawberry Plains.

Traveling through my dad’s hometown, we revisit stories of my youth and always bring up how things look smaller the older we get.

Driving through New Market and Rocky Valley Tennessee we witnessed a wonderful winter sunset on the mirrored surface of a large still pond this year.

Not far away, we travel the backroads of Jefferson City and I always treasure her stories about her past and revist all of the old homesteads. We chat about movie theaters, skating rinks and the way we used to sit in the parking lots and “watch people” at the five and dime store.

We marveled at the spectacular sunset in the field of the Jefferson City Cemetery as fresh arrangements are laid upon the resting place of Frank and Francis Bass. They were the hosts of some of my most memorable Christmas celebrations. At the very least, I owe them a visit and reflective moment to thank them for the greatest joy of my life.

I’m sure future holidays will continue to change. For those who find the warmth of close family – treasure it while you can. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the reverie, but someday, we have to let go of our expectations. Things change and our greatest gifts are the memories we’ve shared with each other. Enjoy each and every moment.