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A Festivus Wish for Grandmom

It all started with an email.  My co-workers here at A Woman’s Place (AWP) will tell you that they now look forward to these emails – the bizarre holiday of the day.  This particular one consisted of a mere 7 words: “Happy Festivus (for the rest of us)!”.  That was all my mom wrote to us last year on the morning of December 23rd, “us” being her sisters (my aunts), her brother-in-law (my uncle), and her daughters (me and my sister).  Now, if you are not familiar with this rather unconventional holiday, you are probably not a huge fan of the long-running TV sitcom Seinfeld.  I happen to come from a long line of Seinfeld enthusiasts so this email took on the feel of an inside joke.   I chuckled to myself, picturing the characteristic Festivus pole, an undecorated aluminum post displayed in place of the traditional Christmas tree.  The rituals of the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength”.

My Uncle Matt didn’t miss a beat.  Channeling Jerry Stiller’s character Frank Costanza, he immediately replied, “Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.”  Soon thereafter, my Aunt Laraine chimed in with Frank Costanza’s infamous Festivus proclamation: “Let us begin with the airing of grievances……and I got a lot of problems with you people!!!”  Well, I guess we had all overestimated my grandparents’ enthusiasm for Seinfeld, for not long after she hit send her phone began to ring.


“Laraine, this is your mother and father.”

Grandmom and Grandpop – yes, both of them at once – were concerned and, frankly, a little offended.

“We just read some emails from you and Matt.  What is Matt doing getting into a fight over a doll?  And if you’ve got a problem with everyone we need to sit down and have a talk.  I can’t imagine what any of us would’ve done to upset you but we certainly don’t appreciate reading about it in an email.”

My aunt could barely contain herself.  Between bursts of can’t-breathe, tears-in-your-eyes, stomach-hurts laughter, Aunt Laraine proceeded to explain that the exchange was all in good fun.  A joke.  She even issued an apology email in an effort to reassure her parents, who were horrified at the thought of a serious rift in our extremely close-knit family.

To this day, we are still laughing about the incident.  And as Festivus drew near this year, it certainly provided us with some much-needed comic relief.  Every day since Thanksgiving, each member of my extremely close-knit family had been piling into at my grandmother’s room at Abramson’s rehab center, supporting her through what would be her final courageous struggle in life.  Talk about feats of strength – over the last 10 years, my grandmom, the one and only Frances Borraccini, bravely stood up to (and triumphed over) throat cancer, quietly put up with the more-than-unpleasant side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, healed from several broken bones, calmly accepted life with a feeding tube, hearing aid, and walker, and now lay ill with pneumonia.  All of this without complaint.  Needless to say, the “airing of grievances” took on a bit of a different tone for us all this time around.  Rather than vent about each other’s shortcomings, we gathered around Grandmom’s bedside, enjoying each other’s company (and, in true Borraccini form, enjoying lots and lots of food together).  Well, ever the good hostess, Grandmom just loved it.  Her whole family in one place, laughing and bonding with full bellies.  And so last Thursday, December 19th, she knew she could rest easy, knowing that none of us had any problems with each other.

Now that another Festivus is here, a made-up holiday all about escaping the commercialism of Christmas, I have decided to celebrate Festivus by making up a holiday of my own. My grandmother gave us the best gift of all, and it certainly didn’t come from a store. She loved us unconditionally.  One night last week, she admitted to my mom and I that we all sometimes “rattled her”, even my grandfather whom she loved dearly for 66 years.  But she reminded us that we are family no matter what, and family should be cherished.

December 19th has already been dubbed “Look for an Evergreen Day” and “Oatmeal Muffin Day”.  This year on December 19th I created “An Angel Gets Its Wings Day”, a day to recognize all those people, whether they are here with us or not, who are looking out for us, and I will celebrate it every year from now on.  For I believe my grandma was an angel here on earth – keeping us all together, making us laugh, loving us unconditionally – and on December 19th I like to think she finally got her wings.


Courage: A Woman’s Place acts bravely and boldly, notwithstanding fear.*
*excerpt from the Values Statement of A Woman’s Place

Christina Baer
Education & Training ManageR

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