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Holiday Connections Across The Miles

By Sunie Levin
Resident Blogger
 

The telephone rings. Your lawyer daughter from New York gives you the news that she is in the middle of a trial so her family can’t come home for the holidays. Depressing! You’re already feeling low thinking about how you haven’t seen the grandkids since summer vacation. The rest of the family will be there, but the holiday won’t be the same. You start humming “Tradition.” After all only you, the official keeper, can impart the rituals of the holiday. You want to give those faraway grandchildren the same feeling of family tradition. Can you do it? You bet! 

No question, geography plays a major role in the lives of many grandparents considering the extreme mobility of modern society. It is the general consensus among demographers that roughly 40% of all grandparents will be long distance to at least one of their grandkids. That’s the problem. So what can be done? Here are some solutions for grandparents who want a close relationship with their grandchildren for holidays, even though they live hundreds of miles away. 

Jillian, an eleven year old grandchild from Lenexa, enthusiastically exclaims “no one cooks as well as Grandma.” Every holiday Jillian receives an overnight goodies box with some prized recipes that she saves in a scrapbook. Many families build their entire holiday celebration around Grandma’s kitchen. Christmas danish cookies and sweet and sour cabbage are recipes that are handed down for generations. Potato latkes or dreidel cookies can be as much a part of the family celebration as lighting the Chanukah candles. If you can’t be there in person, overnight mail will get the treats there quite well. It will guarantee that you will be remembered. 

Fortunately we live in the age of video. Grandma Rita and Grandpa Ray from Milwaukee, while trimming the Christmas tree, tell as special nostalgic story of how they got their favorite ornaments. They talk about the last holiday when the family was together, sing songs, tell jokes and share special family rituals. While they are at it, they relate a few tales about their parents. 

Two grandparents from Dallas feel close to their seven year old granddaughter, Pam, in far distant Oregon. They are making an heirloom that can be handed down. Grandpa Joe is painstakingly building a dollhouse with furniture while Grandma Lorie is lovingly makes window curtains, bedspread and needlepoint pictures. Pam is so excited that she calls her grandparents every night to check on progress. 

Great-grandma Bee from Kansas City always sends holiday books inscribed with the date and a message. She reads the book on the video and then adds a story of her own about how she spent the holiday when she was young. The children love her stories about the good old days before TV and computers. 

For Chanukah, Annie and Arnie Samuels from Parsons invite the neighbors (especially ones with children) over for a potato latke party and teach the children how to play dreidel. Annie has the dough rolled out and ready so each child can cut out and decorate his own cookie. The two grandparents love playing surrogate grandparents, sharing the holiday story and singing songs with their ‘adopted children.’ 

It’s not easy when the grandchildren live so far away. Holidays can be lonely for long distance grandparents. The most treasured gift you can give a grandchild is creating a happy holiday memory to help reaffirm our family connections. 

Sunie Levin is author of “Make New Friends Live Longer” and “Ready or Not Here I Come; How To Choose Your Best Retirement Community.” Visit her web page www.makenewfriendslivelonger.com