Family Holiday Memories & Gift Exchanges: The Carlisle Clan

I missed posting on November 4, but NaBloPoMo’s prompt suggested writing about a favorite holiday memory, I chose memorIES.

My Dad is one of four siblings; Mom is one of three. Both families are close, and we don’t always get to see each other regularly, but there is a lot of love on both sides. I tell you, a lot of love…I am one blessed lady.

When Mom and Dad married, they had to make some decisions that every couple faces on how to share holidays between the families, and they started a rotation. One year, they would spend Christmas with one side and Thanksgiving with the other. The next year, it would switch. As long as I can remember, we have swapped the two, alternating years. Mom and Dad married in 1977, and every year since I was born I’ve gotten to have Christmas or Thanksmas with the Carlisle clan in Winchester, VA. If it was Thanksmas, we’d combo Thanksgiving and Christmas into one amazing weekend.


{Carlisle Clan in the basement on Baldwin Street – Circa ’81…missing a few}

When Granny and Gramps (Dad’s parents) lived in what we now refer to as “the house on Baldwin Street”, the majority of our family time was spent in either the kidney shaped pool in the backyard or the finished basement. The cousins would often gather in the computer room battling aliens with Zak McKracken, playing Caveman Olympics, or California Games on the Commodore 64, or playing the Smurf game or Asteroids on the Atari. The garage smelled wonderfully like saw dust; my Gramps was an avid woodworker. Granny would set out a cookie tray and all the different cookies were in gallon ice cream bins in the freezer in the laundry room. The Aunts and Uncles would visit in the basement living room around the fireplace or playing cards around the downstairs dining table. The Christmas tree always had colored lights and string tinsel, and when we were there at Christmas, Santa would fill nearly 20 stockings on Christmas Eve, all strung along the fireplace like a scene from the Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.


{The full Carlisle Clan (at that time) circa ’82, Granny and Gramps are front and center; I’m there in the fabulous blue windsuit looking outfit looking over at my cousin Chris being a ham. Notice Granny’s shoe painting there in the background…hmmm, must be some shoe love in the genes from both grandmothers! I love that painting…it’s a heel and a boot!}

One holiday, the adults heard this “Order, Order in the court” coming from the utility closet. The middle batch of cousins – my younger brother and cousins Brian, Adam, & Michelle, were holding imaginary court in the closet, and Brian was sentencing sweet Michelle to jail. Poor thing.

I remember toys from the giant carpet covered toy chest, playing Barbies with my cousin Leslie behind the couch, and getting blisters in my palms from the joysticks on the Atari. My cousin Chris was the only one that really knew exactly the right way to make them work right. We had snowball fights at the park in town, dunking contests in the pool during summer visits, and adventures climbing the tree in the backyard.


{The Carlisle Cousins at Aunt Linda and Uncle Ed’s, 2000}

The house on Baldwin Street is where my Granny first showed me her oil paints, where Santa delivered my Kirsten doll – my most beloved childhood toy, where I first watched Grease, and Labrynth, and Big. One Christmas, Santa delivered bikes to all the kids, and my Dad made Drew and I read the owner’s manual from cover to cover before we could ride them.

My Gramps passed in 1999, and Granny downsized a couple of years later, but that house on Baldwin Street remains as one of the most memorable locations of my life. Now we gather at my Aunt Linda and Uncle Ed’s house a couple of miles away, where I have had MANY a slumber party with my cousins and made memories galore there, too. When we’re all in town for the holidays, whether it is Christmas or Thanksmas, we end up collecting around the dining room table and solving the problems of the world or just finding humor in them. And oh how we laugh, and listen, and lift each other.


{Most of the Carlisles in October 2011, in Charleston, SC for Drew and Lauren’s wedding}

I come by creativity (and quirkiness) on both sides. Once the family started to really grow (weddings, babies, etc.), the adults decided to draw names and kids would get gifts from everyone until they became adults…I can’t remember exactly what defines “adult”. A few years ago, someone suggested a themed gift exchange, and now we vote on our theme in September or October and everyone brings a gift that goes along with the theme for the year. We play the white elephant/dirty Santa game to exchange gifts and go in order of the cards drawn from a deck of playing cards.

Some of our themes from years past:

  • Things that start with “C”
  • Things that represent your favorite movie
  • Things with feet
  • Things from your favorite song
  • Things associated with the state in which you live.

This year’s theme is: Things that represent a Christmas song…and I haven’t decided what to get yet, but I definitely have a few ideas percolating!

I look forward to gathering with the Carlisle clan every year; it is not one holiday memory but a collection of them that continues to grow. When the Carlisle clan gets together in Virginia – or anywhere, it’s like a retreat for a few days, and I remember what I’m made of…love, strength, grit, wit, and the ability to laugh until I can’t breathe.

à bientôt j'espère

How does your family celebrate the holidays? Do you have any unique traditions? I’d love to hear about them!

Lauren is a Sr. Designer of Product Graphics for an international manufacturing company by day and a creativity crusader, designer, planner extraordinaire, artist and blogger in her “free” time. Follow her and The Olive Shoe on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram! Please subscribe to receive emails, of course, come back and visit again soon!

Please visit Lauren’s online art gallery {Art by LAC} and Etsy Shop too!

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