Christmas Lost And Found In America

Born in England, my firstborn son didn’t meet his American grandparents until he was three-years-old. His father, tired of the rain and dismal British economy of the mid 1980s, decided we would have a better life in the land of his birth. And so once more (another story), I left my home, family and friends for America where we would live for seventeen years.

We settled on the central coast of California in the late summer of 1986. Though the grandparents lived some four hours away in Los Angeles, we would see them regularly and always at Christmas.

At the bottom of the holiday and shift rota at the start of his new career, my (ex) husband (EH) got what was left. For many years, he worked “graveyards” before graduating to “swing-shift”. By the time he made the day shift, our “little boy” was in high school. By then, I had Christmas in California all figured out.

But not that first Christmas, far from home.

I got up at the crack of dawn to put the turkey in the oven for what would be my first attempt at cooking Christmas lunch. Grandma and Grandpa had driven up from LA the night before, Christmas Eve. EH would have to eat and run to start his shift at 3pm. Not only him, but the grandparents too: Grandma had to work the next day.

No Boxing Day for us in America.

December Skies in England (c) Sherri Matthews

But, determined to make our Christmas as British as possible, I served Brussels Sprouts and a homemade Christmas pudding. The polite refusals by my in-laws assured me they were not the hit I had hoped for. Over the years, my mother-in-law and I would reminicse and laugh about it, but at the time I yearned for my family back in England, never missing them as much as I did that Christmas.

And so everyone left in the afternoon, leaving me and my little boy alone in our first American Christmas. An aching loneliness for us both swept over me. If there had been at least a chill in the air, it would have helped, but the sun shone down from a warm blue sky. Our short-but-sweet Christmas with our new American family had brought fun and joy, but how could it have ended so fast? In my mind, it was far from over.

The weather outside wasn’t frightful but quite delightful and perfect, I realised, for a walk.

With our dog, Bonnie, a cross Lab/Collie come with us from England, we strolled around our new neighbourhood. Windchimes hung on porches of two-story houses and tinkled cheerfully in the gentle breeze. Most houses, like the one we rented, had living rooms upstairs, some providing a sliver of ocean view and a glimpse of Morro Bay.

Hunting for Shells at Morro Bay (c) Sherri Matthews

We wandered down a few roads keeping to the side with no pavement. My son ambled along at my side, stopping to exam rocks and leaves as small children do and Bonnie padded up ahead, tongue lolling and sniffing everything, as dogs do. A quietness had settled all around, save for the low, distant hum of a fog horn.

I imagined families gathered inside their homes enjoying their festivities as we walked by. My son and I were strangers in a distant land, not knowing any of them. He had yet to start school and make new friends; I had yet to meet their moms and my best friend, build our network. My two other children were not yet born. But we would go on to make lifelong friends and build a rich family life with our own traditions. And, smiling down down at my son, I resolved it would start that Christmas Day.

We returned from our walk, raided our chocolate stash, built my son’s new Lego set and watched Pinocchio, Grandma’s gift and first video on our rented VCR. We read stories from his new books and made hot chocolate with marshmallows. Later, I poured myself a glass of Christmas cheer and lit a fire, though it felt like spring outside.

Together, we found our Christmas in America.

Finding Christmas (c) Sherri Matthews

Nothing worked out as I had planned, but everything happened as it should. Grandma and Grandpa are long gone now and we miss them. Today, I celebrate Christmas with my adult children in England.

One thing I have learned is that nothing stays the same. Life in its great ebb and flow with constant change. Sorrow and joy. Loss and hope. Separation and reunion. This year, so much is uncertain. We miss our loved ones, have too much worry and loneliness. But if we have love we have everything and for me this is the true message of Christmas.

Dear friends, wherever you are, may you find peace and love in your Christmas and hope for better days to come.

Love Sherri x

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has published a collection of non-fiction articles in magazines, anthologies and online at her blog, diverse guest features and a memoir column at Carrot Ranch, an international online literary community. A keen walker and photographer from the UK, Sherri raised her family in California for twenty years. She has worked in the legal and medical fields and is now carer and advocate to her youngest on the autistic spectrum. Today Sherri lives in England's West Country not far from the sea, hard at work on final edits of her debut memoir.
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81 Responses to Christmas Lost And Found In America

  1. Thank you, Sherri, for this beautiful Christmas story and message.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike M says:

    Christmas never lost in your writing – wonderful – what we need in these unusual times.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Heyjude says:

    What a lovely memory. Christmas in a warm climate is always odd when you come from England!
    Happy Christmas Sherri, I hope you and yours are all keeping safe and well.
    Jude xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • As you well know, Jude! Thank you, and to you and yours also. Sadly since I posted this my lovely Mum has suffered stroke and is undergoing further tests in hospital. Nothing I can do as they won’t let me see her due to covid, utter nightmare. Don’t know what will happen after the next 24 hours, so am trying to keep my mind off the worry and catch up here… Hope things are better with you and yours, my friend, and better days ahead… xxx

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      • Heyjude says:

        Oh, Sherri, so sorry to hear that news. Never a good time and this close to Christmas makes it even harder. Not being able to be with her is doubly painful and I feel for you. My thoughts are with you and I can only offer you virtual hugs ((( )))

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh thanks so much, Jude. It was pretty overwhelming for a time, but Mum is home and recovering well thank goodness. I am slowly getting back on track, too. We managed to have a good Christmas despite all the last minute tier changes and now of course, we are all in full lockdown. Hope you had a good Christmas and are keeping safe and well. So cold today, freezing fog, brrrrr! Big virtual hugs back, my friend ❤ xxx

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  4. Good to see you, Sherri and thank you for sharing your Christmas story. May the joyful memories overcome any of the sorrowful and sadness in the past and give us hope in the days and years to come. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you , Miriam, I do hope so for us all. Merry Christmas to you and yours, my friend. Sadly my dear mum has suffered a stroke since I posted this, so your prayers very much appreciated xxx

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      • So sorry to hear your mum had a stroke. I just said a prayer for her 🙏. Hope she’ll recover. People do recover from stroke, depending on how serious it was. Some recover completely. Take care yourself and your mum, Sherri. 🎄💞

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Miriam, and thank you so much for your prayers. Mum is recovering well at home thank goodness and I am getting back on track slowly, too. Now, of course, we are under full lockdown here again thanks to surging covid rates, but remain hopefull thanks to the vaccine. Mum has now had both hers, so that is some good news. We salvaged a happy time and hope you had a good Christmas, too Miriam ❤

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          • Good to hear your mum recovered and had both doses vaccine. The surge here is worrisome also. I don’t understand why people still travel. More than a million people in the US on one day two days ago!
            We have been careful and counting to do so until this past.
            We had a great Christmas and new year and a small birthday party for my husband to start the year.
            Take care, Sherri! 💖

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks so much, Miriam! I know, it’s crazy! I don’t understand why they are only now making in coming travellers to the UK produce a negative covid test. Why didn’t they do this from the very start? No wonder we have these new variants surging around the world. Sounds like you had a lovely time. Any parties have been out of the question here other than being allowed to have a small gathering on Christmas Day. Other than that, it’s total lockdown and looks to remain until the end of March. By that time, we will have waited a whole year for our family celebration for my husband’s 60th last March, and by which time he will be 61! You too, Miriam, keep safe! ❤

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              • I know, Sherri. If countries and states and provinces shut the borders from incoming travellers, that would discourage people to travel. My husband’s siblings travelled to India last year. One silbling went early and went to several cities. Another sibling left late, after arriving at the airport, he and his wife had to turn around to come home. Some of our states didn’t allow in incoming travellers from certain states.

                More of that restrictions should have happened.

                Well, I do my part to keep safe for myself and others.

                Have a wonderful day, Sherri.💞💖

                Liked by 1 person

                • That is pretty crazy with all the travelling. There should definitely be more restrictions, and here too, if we are to beat this thing. Thank you, Miriam, and you too, and yes, we will do our best to keep safe and for others too. Big hugs to you, my friend ❤ ❤

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  5. Genny Nau says:

    This was so beautiful and brought a tear to my eye. Wishing you and the family much love this Christmas and always. Hugs!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mum says:

    What a beautiful Christmas message. Love is what life is all about. There may be disappointments along the way but love conquers all.
    May you always know you are loved by many, my lovely daughter. Mum xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lyn Buckley says:

    Love this story! I remember how lonely Paso was for me until I met you! Dennis was talking to a co worker in Australia and I heard him say how strange it would feel to have Christmas in the heat of an Australian summer. We’re freezing in Paso…… 34 degrees at night and only up to 68 during that day. That’s cold to us!! Ha
    Merry Christmas to your family ❣️🎄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Lyn…I remember so well. 68 is a warmish day here in the spring! You’ll see my message on FB about Mum, so much changed even since I posted this… just to have some kind of Christmas with Mum home we’re praying… ❤

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  8. Liz H says:

    What a beautiful reflection!
    God Jul to you, as well. And to all, a good night!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. TanGental says:

    Happy Christmas Sherri. Hope not too many tiers, er tears… lovely story, too

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I felt the loneliness you were feeling in this post, Sherri. As somebody who suffers badly with Homesickness, I totally get what you were saying about those feelings. Such a lovely, heartfelt, post. And with what is going on in the world at the moment, it’s message is something we should all believe in.
    Merry Christmas to you and the family. 🎅
    xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Homesickeness is horrible, isn’t it? Thank you for your lovely comment, Hugh and a Merry Christmas to you and your family. Sadly, since this post went up, things have gone completely pear shaped for all of us with Christmas plans and my dear Mum has suffered a stroke. Just hoping and praying now she will be home as soon as possible… big hugs… xxx

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      • Oh, Sherri, I’m so sorry to hear the news that your mum is in hospital. My fingers are crossed that she’ll be home for Christmas. And the announcements on Saturday were not good. Just remember to please take good care of yourself too.
        Hugs to Mike and you.
        xx

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Hugh, thank you so much for your message, Mum came home on Christmas Eve and is slowly recovering. It was very stressful there for a time and I was gutted with the last minute announcements. But we managed to salvage a good Christmas against all the odds. How I cooked the Christmas meal, I’ll never know! I hope you enjoyed a happy, relaxing Christmas, Hugh. and I hope you and your family are keeping safe and well in this lockdown. We are keeping our heads down as much as we can, avoiding going out unless absolutely necessary. And how cold it’s been! Freezing fog and frost here with not a breath of wind, can’t remember the last time if felt so cold here. Take care, and hugs back to you xxx

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          • Same here, Sherri. We’re staying in, apart from when we take the dogs out for a walk. Even then, we’re keeping well away from other people. I don’t mind the cold weather. It beats the rain, wind and mild conditions, and I’m not a fan of the British summers when they’re too hot and humid. It’s icy first thing, but by the time we go out for the afternoon walk, it’s blue skies, sunshine, and the type of cold air that seems to give me a real boost.
            We’re in lockdown in Wales until at least the end of January. I don’t think it will end then, so I’m keeping myself busy.
            So glad to hear that your mum was home for Christmas. I hope she continues to improve, Sherri.
            Lots of hugs,
            xxxx

            Liked by 1 person

            • I loved your photo on Twitter, Hugh. There is nothing like a walk by the sea to clear the head, is there? I feel just the same and took a lovely walk this morning around the village, very cold but dry and no wind, it was invigorating. We all hate the humidity too! The British summers seem to get warmer each year…so we will enjoy this lovely winter weather as long as we can. Our hearts sink when we see it’s going back to double figures! Continue to keep safe, Hugh, and thank you again for your kind concern for Mum. So far so good, and she had her second jab yesterday, so she will soon have full immunity against this dreadful virus. Hopefully we can all follow soon… Have a lovely weekend and enjoy the cold! Big bigs to you… xxx

              Liked by 1 person

  11. dgkaye says:

    Beautiful memories shared Sher. I can only imagine what a stranger you must have felt like. I remember spending a few Christmas times in Florida and couldn’t seem to get that Christmasy feeling in the heat and sunshine, lol.
    Wishing you and yours a happy and safe holiday season. Hugs ❤ xoxox

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Deb. Yes, it doesn’t feel the same at all in heat and sunshine. I have always been amazed that in Australia they celebrate Christmas on the beach, but then it must seem weird for our dear fellow aussie friends Norah and Irene to imagine us in snow and cold! Sadly since posting here, my dear Mum has suffered a stroke. There’s nothing I can do but wait as they won’t let me be with her due to covid, waiting for further news. I’ll update on FB as I can. Meanwhile, I hope you have a lovely Christmas as much as possible in these awful times. Big hugs to you ❤ xoxoo

      Liked by 1 person

      • dgkaye says:

        Sher, I’m so sorry to hear about your Mum and the tragedy of not being able to be with her is unfathomable. I’m holding you and your Mum in my prayers and sending you healing light my friend. Thanks for your wishes, it will be lonely and quiet here too. We’re on full lockdown for a month, the whole province, beginning Dec 26th! Probably the safest to be home! Thinking of you my dear friend. ❤ ❤ xxx

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh Deb, thank you so much for your comforting message and prayers. I am only just now winding my way back online. Mum is recovering back at home thank goodness but manouvering through medical ‘stuff’, getting prescriptions, doctor follow ups etc. during a pandemic and now, like you, on full lockdown also since Dec 26th, brings its added challenges. The other good news is Mum has had both her vaccinations as she is in the 80s and over group and first to get it in the UK. Be a while before the rest of us, so yes, like you, we are also hunkered down and keeping safe as best we can, though hubby still has to go to work and we can’t avoid venturing forth into the wasteland for essentials. I hope you’re okay and had a lovely Christmas despite it all, we managed to salvage moments of joy against all odds. Phew…and here we are with 2021 so far proving not to let up for a second…keep that healing light going, my dear friend, we sure need it! ❤ ❤ ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  12. A wonderful post, Sherri. Epic, sad, strong, thank you and all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww thank you so muc, Bill, how touching. Sadly, my lovely Mum suffered a stroke 2 days after I posted this, but thankfully she is recovering at home. In the aftermath, my replies here are very late, but you know what they say about that… 😉

      Like

  13. Norah says:

    Lovely post, Sherri. Christmas is what we make it. Thank you for your wishes. I return them to you – multiplied.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I had seen the news about your mum, Sherri. Christmas is going to be different for pretty much all of us this year but, as your post suggests, most people will experience it differently at some point in their lives. I know I have. However it works out, I hope you and your family will take comfort from time together – whether it’s at Christmas or some time after x

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Denise says:

    I’d have eaten your Christmas pudding! Home made as well!
    It is like people who are not Chinese will never understand what gooey puddings made of thickened, flavoured starch mean to us. And the other day I was suddenly reminded of the taste of bread and butter pudding, one of the things my mum learned was a British thing when she came over here, and realised was a cheap and easy way to use up stale bread…
    Thank you for this evocative post, which provokes so many thoughts about where we come from and where we belong. Happy Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, thanks, Denise, that’s nice to know! Oooh…bread and butter pudding is one of my absolute favourites, my Mum’s speciality too! I love your story about your mum’s delicous discovery. Sadly, my lovely Mum suffered a stroke 2 days after I posted this, but thank goodness she is recovering at home. I shall tell her about your mum and how much I look forward to one of her B&B puds as soon as she is up to it 🙂 Hope you and your LDs had a wonderful Christmas, my friend, always lovely to hear from you. We shall meet again!

      Like

      • Denise says:

        Oh dear, Sherri, I am so sorry to hear the bad news about your mum. I’m glad she is at home and having you there with your memories must cheer her up. That is one of your gifts with your reminiscences. By contrast, because I lack confidence in the way I dealt with many situations in the past, I tend to brush over the past and I don’t feel confident bringing up memories. You might not even realise what it is you are bringing to your mum with your wonderful positivity about the past.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s so lovely, thank you, Denise. Yes, sometimes it is not easy with certain memories of the past. I do find it interesting that though I have very clear memories of certain events, with some I draw a complete blank. Writing my memoir, I have had to walk back down some dark paths, and although I have not written it for carthartic purposes, I have been amazed at times at what it’s revealed. Not any great secret or revelation or anything like that, but at the way life shapes us in ways we have no idea of at the time. But sometimes, it is best not to go there at all and leave things as they are… Mum was delighted by your story, the idea that I am eagerly awaiting her B&B pudding a great lifter of spirits! Have a great weekend and keep safe!

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  16. purpleslob says:

    I love hearing stories from the past. And encouragement for today!
    Love, Melinda ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ste J says:

    Ah, how I have missed your writing! It’s strange to celebrate Christmas in a different land although my American experience was more Christmassy in climate being in WA, and I am yet to experience a sun soaked Christmas in the Philippines. That is for another year though, and I look forward to it. Have a wonderful Christmas, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, my friend, and I hope this finds you safe and well having enjoyed a good Christmas wherever you happened to spend it. WA would definitely have felt much more Christmassy than CA, and I do hope we can get a handle on this virus soon so that travel is again possible. Thank you for your lovely message and please forgive me for my late reply. My lovely Mum suffered a stroke two days after I posted this, so you can imagine it’s been a stressful time. She is recovering and we did, by no small miracle, enjoy moments of a wonderful Christmas with much to be thankful for 🙂

      Like

  18. Pat says:

    Thank you, Sherri. There’s a lot packed into that little story of yours. One of excited anticipation, unknowns, hope, love, family, disappointment, change . . . and we ride each wave as they come.

    Over time, like you said, things evolve and you get to know people and make friends and adapt to a different world. It’s really hard at the time, while you’re going through it, but so worth it at the other end. We learn so much about ourselves, possibilities and that the world is a big place.

    Love and hugs, my friend. I’m happy you came to America and share a piece of your history here. I would, someday, like to do the same and explore England and Scotland. Who knows what’s in the cards. Be safe and well and may your holiday and New Year be blessed and full of love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So very true, Pat. It is all such a learning curve and we have no idea at the time how it will all go, but we certainly do learn so much along the way. My life in America with my family is a huge part of our life. It will always have a home in my heart. I am honoured to have lived there and to have been so accepted and loved there with so many wonderful family and friends. Oh and I do so hope you get to visit England and Scotland one day! I know you have longed for it for a long time. Once we are all through this madness, who knows what possibilities await? Something to look forward to, for sure! Thank you so much, my friend, for your lovely message and here’s to better days ahead keeping hope alive in our hearts. Love & hugs to you ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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