There will be a big celebration in Minneapolis tonight because my niece was born a year ago this morning.
It is hard to believe she is one year old.
She is weaned from her bottle now and taking her first tentative steps. She can walk around a room supporting herself by holding onto furniture but she is not yet ready to walk without something for support. That will come any day.
Despite the fact that my niece participated in the celebration of my nephew’s birthday six weeks ago, she does not understand the significance of today. All she understands is that she will go to her grandparents’ house tonight for dinner, that there will be cake for dessert, and that she will be presented with some new toys. For her, that is excitement enough.
My mother is going to bake a white cake and decorate it with pink and yellow roses. No doubt it will be very beautiful—and no doubt it will be served with homemade ice cream.
My niece will have her favorite dinner tonight: boiled chicken cut into tiny pieces, mashed potatoes, peas, mashed carrots with a touch of maple flavoring, homemade applesauce, and cranberry sauce (which she loves).
She’s a good eater now. She is no longer finicky, as she was last summer, when she first began exploring solid food.
She likes her morning cereal, and she likes her morning scrambled eggs. For lunch, she likes tomato cream soup and toasted cheese, or chicken noodle soup and tuna salad spread on a butter cracker. She likes poached pears and gingerbread when she gets up from her afternoon nap. She likes boiled chicken or pork tenderloin for dinner, along with mashed potatoes. Her preferred vegetables are peas, lima beans, carrots and butternut squash. She’s big on strawberry jello, cranberry sauce, all kinds of applesauce, and a whipped pineapple chiffon salad my mother very seldom made until my niece went crazy over it a few weeks ago. For dessert, my niece likes vanilla pudding and tapioca most of all, although she has acquired a recent fondness for peach cobbler and ice cream.
Everything she eats must be cut into tiny pieces, and she must be fed with a spoon, but she takes her meals at regular mealtimes now, sitting in a high chair at table. At my parents’ house, her chair is placed at a corner of the dining table, between her mother and her grandmother, so that two people are available to feed and assist her. She generally makes it through mealtime with no fuss.
Last Saturday, her father and her uncle—with assistance from everyone else in the family—erected and decorated a Christmas tree, the first Christmas tree in the new house.
My brothers erected the tree in the kitchen because the kitchen is the room most often in use at my older brother’s house, where it serves as pantry, cookhouse, dining room, playroom and family room. As a result, my older brother and my sister-in-law decided to put the tree in the kitchen, where it would be most enjoyed.
The tree was placed at the far end of the kitchen, where it is surrounded by windows on three sides. The tree is easily-observed from all over the room, a requirement, but it is also out-of-the-way, another requirement.
My brothers selected the tree early Saturday morning. They bought a nine-foot-tall evergreen, choosing a giant tree in order to take advantage of the kitchen’s high ceilings.
My brothers spent most of Saturday decorating the tree, all the while keeping an eye on the day’s college football games—which worked out well, because Saturday featured one of the best series of college games in the history of the sport.
While my brothers worked on the tree, my mother and my sister-in-law baked Christmas cookies.
All day, my father—when not playing with my niece and nephew—helped out wherever and whenever he was needed.
The day ended with a dinner of prime rib, which everyone enjoyed immensely (except my niece, who ate chicken).
This year, for the first time, Christmas will be held, not at my parents’ house, but at my older brother’s house. It will mark the first Christmas in the new house, and allow my niece and nephew to experience the thrill of early Christmas morning in their own home.
I suspect this will turn out to be a permanent change of Christmas venue.
I do not think my parents mind—and, if they have regrets, I am sure they understand and accept the situation.
It is a passing of the generational torch, one of many to occur over coming years.