Traditions change, stay the same for Natchez family

Published 12:58 am Sunday, December 26, 2010

NATCHEZ — By Saturday evening, things were finally winding down under the tree at the Serio’s house.

The family sat together in the den as the sun went down, and the only lights in the room came from the ice-blue lights strung from the Christmas tree and the TV screen.

The laid-back Christmas evening is standard at the Serio’s house on the corner of Auburn and Duncan avenues.

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“After we feast we all watch movies and take little naps,” mother Melissa said.

Even third grader Carrie, quietly enjoyed making use of her new sock-puppet kit in front of the TV, maybe because her day started at 5 a.m.

Melissa said she told Carrie not to wake up her older sister, sixth grader Carmen, at the crack of dawn this year.

Carmen said she was surprised Carrie left her alone after her history of summoning a sidekick to check out the presents. Carmen told her mother Carrie later admitted to her that she snooped around the unopened presents as early as 5 a.m.

“Really, she was up then?” Melissa said to Carmen, looking surprised.

The sisters finally got to open gifts from their parents, which were in their stocking, and from Santa, which were under the tree.

But when everything was unwrapped, Carrie noticed something unfamiliar stashed under the couch.

“It was this humongous house that Santa didn’t even bother to build,” Carrie said, bewildered.

Melissa said she explained to Carrie that Santa must have run out of time to wrap and build the dollhouse, or he may have just forgotten.

So a big chunk of the day was building the three-story bonus gift in Carrie’s room.

Melissa said this Christmas was pretty standard this, but with one big difference.

Saturday was the first Christmas without her mother. Melissa said her mother died this year.

But rather than be sad, Melissa said the holidays are a perfect time for her family to be thankful for the many Christmas mornings her children did get to spend with their grandmother.

And they can celebrate that the traditions her mother started will still live on.

Her father still came over for breakfast, which was a tradition Melissa’s mother helped start.

Carrie remembers her grandmother being a stickler about when she could open the presents her grandmother brought her until after lunch.

“You would just see them sitting on the staircase!” Carrie said.

“You know there’s something missing,” said Hannah Howard, Melissa’s niece, of her grandmother’s absence.

Melissa said she is thankful her children got to spend as much time as they did with their grandmother while she was with them.

“A lot of grandchildren don’t get to know their grandparents for that long,” Melissa said to her children and niece.

Getting a relaxing evening in Christmas night was also to prepare for the next day, Melissa said.

She said her girls have not seen their friends, pretty much since school was out for Christmas break, because everyone’s parents have been so busy.

“They’re itching to get together with their buddies,” Melissa said.

Although its been a good Christmas and the tree looked beautiful, Melissa said it was getting stripped of its seasonal décor and sent to the hunting camp as early as the next day.

The Serios also have a new tradition involving disposing of their tree that has rolled into a New Year’s Eve tradition.

For the past three years, the Serios take their used Christmas tree to their Fayette hunting camp and transform it into a light show to ring in the new year.

“We stuff it like a scarecrow and light fireworks in it,” Melissa said.

It beats tossing it to the curb to brown, she agreed.

Hannah, who now lives in Tulsa, Okla., said visits home for the holidays are sometimes drama-filled and sometimes relaxing. This year has been good, she said.

“It’s been relaxing — for the most part,” she said.

“It’s good to see everybody.”